Well completions are on an upswing from levels of last year, with activity targeting oil rather than natural gas charting the largest gains, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API).

An estimated 11,297 oil and natural gas wells and dry holes were completed in the third quarter, a 45% jump from last year’s third quarter, according to API’s 2010 Quarterly Well Completion Report: Third Quarter. The activity increase continues the trend noted in API’s second quarter report (see Daily GPI, July 15).

For most of this decade, natural gas had been the primary target of domestic drilling, API said, but with the continued growth of oil well completions and a drop in natural gas completion activity this year amid historically low natural gas prices, this is no longer the case.

“Third quarter exploratory well completions climbed 31% compared with 2009’s third quarter, with natural gas exploratory wells up a whopping 68%,” said Hazem Arafa, director of API’s statistics department. “I think this really demonstrates the oil and natural gas industry’s continued commitment to finding new energy sources to meet growing U.S. and world demand, as well as the importance of new supply areas, many of which were only opened recently thanks to the industry’s ability to apply innovative techniques to existing technologies.”

API estimates showed a resurgence in oil well completion activity in the third quarter, with completions rising to an estimated 5,451 oil wells, a 60% jump from year-ago levels.

An estimated 4,434 gas wells were completed in the third quarter, a 28% increase from 2009’s third quarter. For the first three quarters of the year estimated gas well completions dipped 3% from a year ago to 12,677, while oil well completions rose 21% to an estimated 13,865.

API also reported total estimated footage of 69,156,000 feet drilled in the third quarter, a 43% increase from third quarter 2009. Oil well footage surged 81% for the quarter, to 32,815,000, while natural gas footage gained 17% to 29,255,000.

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