Estimated domestic natural gas drilling reached a record high during 2007, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API), and U.S. drilling estimates for the year show that oil and gas exploration remains robust as activity was twice the level recorded during the lows of the early to mid-1990s.

Domestic gas drilling also set a record in the third quarter, API previously reported (see NGI, Oct. 29, 2007).

According to API's 2007 Quarterly Well Completion Report for the fourth quarter, an estimated 52,731 oil wells, natural gas wells and dry holes were completed in 2007, a 22-year high. The fourth quarter's estimated 13,737 completions was the highest since the first quarter of 1986. In 2007, gas remained the main driver of U.S. exploration and production activity. An estimated all-time high of 30,625 gas wells were completed in 2007 -- an estimated 7,785 of those in the fourth quarter, an all-time quarter high for natural gas drilling activity in the U.S.

API's estimates show that the resurgence in oil well completion activity that began in 2000 continued into 2007. At 17,223 estimated wells in 2007, annual oil well completion activity was the most active since 1990. In 2007, exploratory gas well estimates rose for the fifth straight year to 3,613 -- an all-time yearly high. The estimated 981 exploratory oil wells is equivalent to 1986 levels.

API also reported that total estimated footage drilled in 2007 was the highest in more than two decades. Some 306,424,000 feet were drilled in 2007; 77,812,000 feet were drilled in the fourth quarter alone.

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