Natural gas output across the Lower 48 states in April nearly matched production in March, but it was 2.6% higher than in the year-ago period, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported last week.

According to EIA’s latest Natural Gas Gross Production Report for April, wet gas production in the Lower 48 states hit 64.83 Bcf/d in April, barely up from the 64.81 Bcf/d reported in March.

Gulf of Mexico (GOM) gas production was down 3.8% in April from a month earlier because of maintenance issues and shut-ins, the report noted. (The deepwater Macondo oil well exploded on April 20.) However, the decline in offshore gas output was offset by a 1.5% increase in production onshore, said EIA.

Most of the gas production gains onshore were in New Mexico and Oklahoma, which both showed 1.4% increases in output to April from March, said federal officials. Louisiana reported a 0.7% uptick in gross gas output month/month to 5.67 Bcf/d.

Including Alaska, U.S. gross gas production fell 1.1% to 73.94 Bcf/d in April from 74.78 Bcf/d in March. March’s figure was revised upward by EIA in the latest report.

EIA expects total, marketed gas production to increase by 1.2% this year. Henry Hub spot prices are forecast to average $4.49/MMBtu for 2010, which would be 54 cents higher from the 2009 average.

According to the comprehensive Weekly Rig Roundup published last week by Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Inc. (TPH), all three U.S. land sources posted rig gains for the week ending June 25 from the week before.

RigData showed a gain of 43 rigs, Smith Bits’ count was up by 19 rigs, and Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) said there were 13 more rigs in operation week/week (w/w).

BHI’s gas rig count — minus GOM rigs — was up by four rigs w/w, while the onshore oil rig count grew by 10 rigs. RigData’s analysis w/w showed that 11 more gas rigs were put into operation; “gas/oil” rigs jumped by 30; “oil” rigs were down by four; and “other/unclassified” was up by six rigs.

According to the report, Southwestern Energy Co., one of the biggest onshore U.S. gas producers, added more rigs than any other producer w/w, up by five rigs to 29 total. By region, the Midcontinent, Rockies and South Texas gained 12-14 rigs each, said the report.

The gains partially were offset by declines in East Texas/North Louisiana (the Haynesville/Bossier shales), which lost six rigs, and in West Texas/New Mexico, which lost four rigs w/w.

The “books now are closed” on U.S. rig data for the second quarter, noted TPH. In the three-month period RigData reported a 14% jump in onshore rigs from the first quarter, while Smith Bits was up 11% and Baker Hughes also was 14% higher.

Meanwhile, the GOM region had a seven-rig decline w/w, and in late June it had 40 total rigs in operation, the report noted. Hercules Offshore Inc. was the biggest loser, losing four rigs w/w.

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