OREANDA-NEWS. The Haynesville shale's dominance as a natural gas supply source could rise in 2018 amid unobstructed pipeline access to the northeast and close proximity to the US Gulf coast, a key industrial demand region.

Production from the Haynesville, a gas-rich formation underlying parts of east Texas and northern Louisiana has ballooned this year as producers applied improvements in drilling to drive down well costs and capture higher gas prices.

Chesapeake Energy's output from the Haynesville topped 1 Bcf/d (28mn m?/d) in the fourth quarter and gas and the infrastructure company Williams Partners said that the Haynesville in 2017 became its fastest growing gas field, surpassing the growth rate of bigger fields such as the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Haynesville output still trails the Marcellus and Permian basins, but the it holds advantages over the other large fields. It is closer to emerging markets and has plenty of room to grow. Pipeline delays have stalled some Marcellus production and Permian producers are searching for new ways to deal with the eventual deluge of gas that will accompany the oil production there.

Drilling has boomed in the Haynesville as prompt-month prices rebounded from a 17-year low in March 2016 below $1.65/mmBtu to more than $3/mmBtu in November. The surge in prices spurred producers to return rigs to prolific gas fields like the Haynesville. The rig count there has nearly doubled from year-earlier levels.

Dry-gas output from the Haynesville, which excludes volumes lost during processing and production, by November had climbed to about 4.8 Bcf/d, up about a third from a year earlier, and the so far shows no immediate signs of slowing.

"We are seeing big volumes come on in the Haynesville," said Williams' chief executive Alan Armstrong said in a recent analyst call. Williams is already bumping up on its capacity limits in the Haynesville and is looking for expansion opportunities.

Haynesville takeaway capacity is hardly constrained. Haynesville output peaked in November 2011 at more than 7.3 Bcf/d, giving producers in that field room for future development.

The field may attract additional capital next year as pipeline agreements struck at higher gas prices expire and as producers look to exploit markets in the southeast and along the US Gulf coast. Cheniere Energy's nearby Sabine Pass export terminal on the Louisiana coast has also grown this year into the largest consumer of US gas by volume. Gas intake as the terminal this year on some days has surpassed more than 3 Bcf/d.