U.S. producers may be looking to exploit more oil and natural gas targets in Wyoming’s Williston Basin, California and in Texas, according to a tally of January permitting activity by Evercore ISI.

All major states and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) require drilling permits to be filed and approved before operators may drill new wells or bypass/sidetrack existing wells.

Onshore permits usually are issued several months before drilling begins, while offshore permits often are secured even further in advance.

According to the January data compiled by Evercore’s James West and his team, domestic permitting activity during January was the strongest in five years and significantly better than in December.

Permitting increased month/month to 6,570. Wyoming led the way during January, hitting 4,200, up 1,029 from December. The state’s permitting activity, centered around exploration and development in the Williston Basin’s Bakken/Three Forks targets, has risen steadily over the last six months.

More permits also were filed in California, at 262, a gain of 190 from December, and in Texas, where 983 permits were requested, up by 124 month/month.

Conversely, permits issued decreased from December in Colorado, Louisiana and New Mexico. Colorado permitting was at 210 in January, down 227, while Louisiana was off 116 and New Mexico saw 46 fewer.

For the first week of February, Evercore noted there was a total of 1,140 U.S. onshore permits filed.

The Energy Information Administration, in the Drilling Productivity Report for January, said month-to-month increases in production from the seven most prolific U.S. onshore unconventional plays would continue in February, pushing the upward trend into a third year.

Offshore permits to drill in deepwater and midwater gained momentum in January too, according to Evercore. In addition, an 8,500 foot, ultra-deepwater permit was issued, the deepest drilling permit issued over the last six months.

Every category of offshore permitting was up from December, with one ultra-deepwater permit issued versus none the month before, and three deepwater permits issued, up one. Three midwater permits also were issued, a gain of one, along with four shallow water permits, two higher than in December.

Sidetrack permits declined to one, down four from December, driven by a two-permit decline each in deepwater and midwater. The permits approved for bypass drilling operations also fell to one, down four month/month. The BOEM reported no plans for development or exploration in January, Evercore noted.

For the first week of February, Evercore said six offshore plans had been filed, with four exploration and two development plans.