The unconventional oil and gas rig count sagged in the week ending Aug. 17, with numbers flat or declining in 10 of the nation’s 13 unconventional plays compared with the week before, but the liquids-rich Niobrara-Denver Julesburg (DJ) Basin continues to soar, according to NGI’s Shale Daily Unconventional Rig Count.

The total number of unconventional rigs nationwide decreased by one to 889 from the previous week, an 11% decline from 998 at the same time last year. But in the Niobrara-DJ Basin the number jumped to 26, a 63% increase from 16 in the previous week and a whopping 420% increase from last year. In NGI‘s Shale Daily‘s previous rig count analysis, the Niobrara-DJ Basin saw a 14% week/week increase (see Shale Daily, Aug. 13).

The Bakken/Sanish/Three Forks (229 rigs, up from 224 the previous week) and Uinta Basin (28 rigs, up from 27) were the only other plays with increases week-to-week.

Helping to drive the Niobrara-DJ Basin numbers higher was activity by Noble Energy Corp. Noble has gone from three to seven horizontal rigs in the play in the past 15 months and plans to have 10 running by the end of the year, according to CEO Charles D. Davidson (see Shale Daily, Aug. 14). The company has in the past five years quietly built a mammoth oil and gas liquids-based enterprise in the DJ Basin of Colorado that ranks second in net acreage only to Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (see Shale Daily, Nov. 16, 2011).

Chesapeake Energy Corp. has identified more than 1,000 potential locations in the Niobrara core (see Shale Daily, Aug. 15) and Quicksilver Resources Inc continues to see improvements in well performance and drilling/completion cost in its Colorado Niobrara project (see Shale Daily, Aug. 8).

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (WOGCC) currently has 339 applications for permits to drill in the Power River Basin portion of the Niobrara, and the shale play has produced more than 938,000 bbl of crude oil, according to interim WOGCC Director Bob King (see Shale Daily, Aug. 17). The state received 77 oil and gas permit applications in July, a 51% increase from 51 in July 2011, according to WOGCC data.