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Pennsylvania led the pack of natural gas-producing states in growth last year.

A recent report from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office shows total Pennsylvania production recorded the strongest year-over-year growth of any top-five gas-producing state through November of last year at 7.9%. The state still ranked second in the amount of gas collected, behind Texas.

Production of gas gained by fracking grew faster than in 2020 but not as fast as it did pre-pandemic.

The IFO says natural gas production from fracking grew 6.8% in 2021 from the previous year. That’s higher than 2020’s 4% growth rate, but lower than the average 10.2% growth rate seen from 2016 to 2019.

The Department of Environmental Protection says companies drilled 518 new wells last year. The IFO said that’s the first year-over-year annual increase in new wells since 2017.

New well drilling especially ticked up in the last three months of 2021, with 154 wells drilled. The IFO noted that’s a return to pre-pandemic levels after a few quarters of slower growth.

It credits the increase to unusually high gas prices in the second half of the year.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, Pennsylvania gas prices rose 186% compared to the previous year, to reach an average of $3.97 per million British thermal units (MMBtu).

National and regional prices have increased to their highest levels since 2018.

The federal Energy Information Administration said it expects natural gas production to rise nationally this year and in 2023. It estimates that Henry Hub natural gas prices will average $3.92 per MMBtu in 2022, an eight-year high.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.