Oil and natural gas permitting in the Lower 48 slowed down sequentially in October, although the monthly permit count was up on both a year/year basis and when compared to pre-Covid October 2019 numbers, Evercore ISI data show.

Operators filed a total of 3,308 permits last month, down 16% from September but up 25% versus October 2021, said Evercore researchers led by James West in the firm’s latest monthly tally. The permit count also was up 6% versus October 2019, researchers noted. 

The Permian Basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico led the month/month decline, with permits falling by 486 to 1,190.

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The Marcellus and Eagle Ford shales also saw drops of 149 and 87, respectively, versus September.

These declines were partially offset by permitting increases in the Powder River (plus 87) and Denver-Julesburg/Niobrara (plya 70) basins, as well as “smaller shale plays (plus 203),” the Evercore team said. 

The Powder River Basin (PRB) of northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana features prominently in the portfolios of Lower 48 players such as EOG Resources Inc. and Devon Energy Corp. Devon reported average pre-hedge natural gas prices of $8.23/Mcf in the PRB during the third quarter.

Pioneer Natural Resources Co. bucked the Permian permitting trend, filing 104 permits in October, up 82% month/month to record the highest monthly total of any operator in the basin. Pioneer also is the largest Permian producer. 

The Permian’s next four leading permit filers were Diamondback Energy Inc. (50), Chevron Corp. (27), Coterra Energy Inc. (27) and Occidental Petroleum Corp. (25).

Broken down by state, month/month declines were seen in Texas (minus 537), New Mexico (minus 132), North Dakota (minus 21), Oklahoma (minus 56) and Pennsylvania (minus 122). These drops were partially offset by gains in California (up 164), Wyoming (up 105) and Colorado (up 66).

As for oil and gas employment, the exploration and production segment saw a jump of 11.8% year/year in October, researchers said, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Oilfield services employment was up 4.3% y/y, the Evercore team said, citing data from the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. 

The Lower 48 rig count, meanwhile, stood at 650 as of Friday (Nov. 18), down one unit from the previous week but up 38% year/year amid a tightly supplied global oil and gas market.

With demand projected to continue outpacing supply, energy bankers expect to see “sustained increases” in global natural gas and oil prices, according to a new survey by Haynes and Boone LLP.

The Energy Information Administration, meanwhile, is projecting a combined month/month production increase of more than 500 MMcf/d from seven key Lower 48 onshore basins to 96 Bcf/d in December, led by the Haynesville Shale and Appalachian Basin.