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API Reports Some Pickup in Q3 Drilling from Q2

While significantly below year-ago levels, U.S. drilling activity rebounded somewhat in the third quarter, with total well completions up 10.2% from the second quarter, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported last week. Natural gas activity saw the steepest quarterly decline in 10 years during the third quarter.

Still, the estimated total number of oil wells, natural gas wells and dry holes completed in the third quarter -- 8,856 -- was down 46% from the third quarter in 2008 and remained at levels not seen since 2003-2004, said API, which represents major oil and natural gas producers. In July API pegged total well completions for the second quarter at 8,038 wells (see NGI, July 30).

"The trend of declining well completions [from year-ago levels] is a clear indication that oil and gas companies, which are facing declining earnings and threats of increased taxes, continue to carefully monitor their expenditures," said Hazem Arafa, director of API's statistics department.

The estimated number of third quarter exploration oil and gas wells plunged 59% from 2008 to 327 wells, while the number of third quarter development oil and gas wells fell 46% to 7,430 wells, according to API.

Natural gas continues to be the primary target for domestic drilling, with an estimated 4,097 wells completed in the third quarter. However, activity in the third quarter was down 49% from year-ago levels, marking the most severe quarterly decline for natural gas plays in this decade.

Gas well completions have tumbled by more than 600 wells this year. They began the first quarter at 5,735 wells, and then fell to 4,225 wells in the second quarter (see NGI, April 20).

Third quarter oil well completions were approximately 3,660, down 44% from the comparable period in 2008, API said. And reported total estimated footage of 50,716,000 fell 53% from the third quarter of 2008.

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