The U.S. offshore proved to be a bright spot for oil and natural gas permitting during September, while the Lower 48 reported sharp declines in several major plays, Evercore ISI said Tuesday.
In Evercore’s monthly permitting overview, analyst James West and his team compared permitting in September versus August using individual state and federal data.
Lower 48 oil drilling permitting declined by 32% from August to 2,890, mostly on a shortfall in Texas, down 26%, and in Wyoming, off 35%.
“Weaker activity” was seen in the Permian Basin, with permits declining by 238 from August, as well as the Eagle Ford Shale, down by 13. Partially offsetting the decline in the big Texas plays was an uptick in the Barnett Shale, with four more permits than in August, and in the Granite Wash formation, up by eight.
Permitting in the Bakken Shale, meanwhile, “experienced its sharpest decline so far this year” to 97, a decline of 46 from August, while the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin/Niobrara formation contracted to 1,669, off by 1,068 month/month.
Through September, U.S. oil permitting stood at 45,300, up 16% year/year, with a “modest improvement” of 19 permits in the Utica Shale, and in the Bakken, with 56 more permits. The DJ/Niobrara also saw “robust” permitting through September, with 9,969 more permit requests than a year ago, primarily by private operators, Evercore noted.
Conversely, oil permit activity had retrenched through September in the Permian, down by 797, and for the Eagle Ford, off 451.
Natural gas permitting also languished during September month/month, with the Marcellus Shale down 61, and in the Utica, off by four, according to Evercore.
A “modest increase” in the Haynesville Shale gas permitting offset the decrease with nine more permits than in August. The Haynesville “has been steadily increasing for the past two months,” analysts said.
Through September, Lower 48 gas permits totaled 3,263, a 13% overall decline year/year. Year-to-date there has been “weaker permitting” in the Haynesville, off by 402 year/year. Evercore also pointed to the sharp nationwide permitting contraction in May, as well as a sharp decline year/year in January.
“Weakness also stemmed from activity in the Marcellus,” down by 84 gas permits year/year through September, partially offset by an uptick in the Utica, which has seen 19 more permits.
Meanwhile, offshore permit activity climbed in September to 16, a 78% gain month/month, with eight applications for new wells in midwater and shallow water basins versus three total in August. Deepwater permits were flat at two.
New well permits for the offshore were led by Chevron Corp., BP plc and Byron Energy, each up by two. The number of new offshore well permits through September totaled 53, a 10% gain year/year.
“BP’s permitting is up 23% for offshore permits while Chevron accounts for 14%,” with Royal Dutch Shell plc filing the remaining 9%, according to Evercore.
The firm also looked at Lower 48 permitting for the first week of October and reported a slight 5% decrease from the final week of September to 859, as activity in Texas overall remained weak. Barnett permitting fell by 23% week/week, while the Haynesville was off by 18. The Permian permit count, however, climbed by 80.
Activity declined as well in early October in the DJ/Niobrara, down by 49 week/week.
During the first week of October, gas permitting also was slower than in the final week of September at 82, down by 20%, on lower activity in the Haynesville and the Marcellus.