Natural gas has been the primary target of domestic drilling throughout the past decade, but the focus appears to be shifting to crude oil, according to a report on first quarter well completions issued by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

The estimated number of oil wells drilled in the first quarter outnumbered natural gas wells by 5,718 to 3,860, API reported. The figures for oil well completions “show the focus is changing,” the producer group said.

While oil and gas well activity was up from the same period in 2010, it was down from 2009, API said. It estimated that 10,431 oil and natural gas wells and dry holes were completed in the most recent first quarter, up 29% from 2010’s first quarter but almost 8% below completions in the first quarter of 2009.

API also reported total estimated footage of 75.66 million feet was drilled in the first quarter, a 38% increase from the same period of 2010.

“The industry is moving forward, expanding domestic production of oil and natural gas wherever possible, but drilling remained below 2009,” said Hazem Arafa, director of API’s statistics department. He called for a change in governmental policies that API maintains are restricting access for producers.

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