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Big Seven U.S. Plays Expected to See Oil, Gas Production Increases Continue in May

May promises to be yet another boom month in the seven most prolific U.S. onshore unconventional plays, with both natural gas and oil production expected to increase compared with April totals, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Production increases detailed in EIA's latest Drilling Productivity Report (DPR), which was released Monday, would continue a trend that began in January 2017.

The DPR uses recent U.S. data on the total number of drilling rigs in operation along with estimates of drilling productivity and estimated changes in output from existing wells to provide estimated changes in production for seven key regions: the Anadarko, Appalachian and Permian basins, and the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Niobrara formations.

All seven plays are expected to see increased natural gas production in May compared with April, and total gas production from the plays is expected to reach 66.91 Bcf/d in May, a 1.6% increase compared to 65.83 Bcf/d in April. The Appalachian Basin, home to the mighty Marcellus and Utica shales, will lead the way again, with an estimated 27.71 Bcf/d, compared to 27.32 Bcf/d in April, EIA said.

Increases are also expected in the Anadarko (6.54 Bcf/d from 6.50 Bcf/d), Bakken (2.23 Bcf/d from 2.19 Bcf/d), Eagle Ford (6.67 Bcf/d from 6.56 Bcf/d), Haynesville (8.54 Bcf/d from 8.33 Bcf/d), Niobrara (4.94 Bcf/d from 4.88 Bcf/d) and Permian (10.27 Bcf/d from 10.05 Bcf/d).

Total oil production in the seven plays is expected to increase to an estimated 6.97 million b/d in May, compared to 6.87 million b/d in April, an increase of about 125,000 b/d, EIA said.

Most of the increase in oil production is to come from the Permian, which is forecast to reach 3.18 million b/d, compared to 3.11 million b/d in April.

Lesser increases are expected in five other plays, with the Anadarko estimated at 506,000 b/d, Appalachia at 110,000 b/d, Bakken at 1.23 million b/d, Eagle Ford at 1.34 million b/d and Niobrara at 590,000 b/d. The Haynesville (42,000 b/d) is forecast to see oil production remain unchanged month/month.

Drilled but uncompleted (DUC) well counts across the Big Seven ended March at 7,692, an increase of 94 from February, EIA said.

The bulk of the DUCs was in the Permian, which saw an increase of 122 in March to 3,044, and in the Eagle Ford, which increased 22 to 1,507. Three of the Big Seven plays saw their DUC numbers decrease from February: the Appalachian (minus 15), the Bakken (minus one) and the Niobrara (minus 39).

The productivity of new oil wells in the plays is expected to increase in May to 671 b/d, according to the DPR. New-well gas production per rig is also expected to increase during the month to 3.82 MMcf/d.

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