Well completions in the fourth quarter were up 37% compared to the same period a year earlier but remained well below 4Q2008 levels, and 2010 totals also remained below 2008 levels, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API).

An estimated 10,487 oil and natural gas wells and dry holes were completed in the fourth quarter, according to API's 2010 Quarterly Well Completion Report: Fourth Quarter. The activity increase continues a trend noted in both API's second and third quarter reports (see Daily GPI, Oct. 28, 2010; July 15, 2010).

A total of 37,892 wells were drilled in all of 2010, up 12% from 2009 but down almost 33% from 2008, according to Hazem Arafa, director of API's statistics department.

"As the nation continues to struggle with a weak economy, the oil and natural gas industry has shown that it is willing and able to increase production to meet growing energy demand and put people back to work. With public policies that provide opportunity for responsible exploration and production as well as the certainty needed for any business to succeed, we can and will accelerate job creation and economic growth throughout the economy."

API estimates showed a resurgence in oil well completion activity in the fourth quarter, with completions rising to an estimated 5,715 oil wells, a 65% jump from year-ago levels. API also reported total estimated footage of 69,165,000 feet drilled in the fourth quarter, a 45% increase from fourth quarter 2009.

But for the first time since 1996, the estimated number of oil wells drilled (19,451) outnumbered gas wells (14,324) in 2010, API said.

Overall drilling in U.S. shale basins has increased 38% from a year ago, led by 100-200% jumps in oil- and liquids-rich natural gas plays, according to a shale basin rig count compiled by NGI's Shale Daily (see Daily GPI, Jan. 11).

The overall shale rig count declined from 964 for the week ending Dec. 31, 2010 to 942 for the week ending Jan. 7, 2011 (see table at www.shaledaily.com).

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