Domestic natural gas drilling activity set a record for the third quarter, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said in its quarterly well completion report released last Monday.

An estimated 13,543 natural gas wells, oil wells and dry holes were completed during the third quarter, a 22-year record for the quarter and up 4% from the third quarter of 2006, the producer group said. Natural gas lead the way.

The API estimated that more than half of the wells completed during the period -- 7,628 -- were gas wells. Oil well completions rose to 4,544 wells, the highest third-quarter activity for oil since 1985.

Total estimated exploratory completions, accounting for almost 10% of total estimated completions, rose 21% during the third quarter compared to the same period in 2006, according to the API. It estimated that exploratory natural gas completions jumped 47% over last year's third quarter.

The API also reported an estimated footage of 81 million feet was drilled during the third quarter, up 9% over the same period last year and the highest third- quarter estimated footage drilled in more than two decades.

Overall domestic drilling estimates for the third quarter were at twice the level of third-quarter drilling activity recorded during the 1990s, and the first nine months of U.S. drilling activity hasn't been this high since 1985, the API said.

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