After posting a 22% first quarter decline in drilling activity relative to the same period a year ago, U.S. and oil and natural gas drilling staged a turnaround in the second quarter, with well completions rising 38% in the second quarter, according to a new report issued by the American Petroleum Institute (API). But natural gas, which has held the lead in drilling for most of the decade, is now lagging oil.

An estimated 10,358 oil wells, natural gas wells and dry holes were completed in the second quarter, API reported. Of that total, about 4,396 wells were gas wells, up 22% from the comparable period a year ago. Oil well completions in the second quarter surged 59% from the same period in 2009 to 4,847, the producer group said.

“The roller coaster year of 2009 has given way to somewhat brighter prospects in U.S. drilling activity in 2010,” said Hazem Arafa, director of API’s statistics department.

“As expectations for crude and natural gas demand have become more bullish, drilling activity has started to reverse its steep decline from the last five quarters…The estimated number of exploratory oil and natural gas wells drilled jumped 35% from the second quarter 2009, demonstrating the oil and natural gas industry’s continued commitment to finding new sources of oil and gas to increase U.S. production,” he said.

API reported that an estimated footage of 58.37 million feet was drilled in the second quarter, up 16% from the comparable period a year ago.

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