First quarter US drilling plunges to 2004 levels

US oil and gas drilling during the first quarter dropped to levels not seen since 2004, ending 6 consecutive years of year-to-year growth for the period, reported the American Petroleum Institute Apr. 15.

Apr 16th, 2009

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 16 -- US oil and gas drilling during the first quarter dropped to levels not seen since 2004, ending 6 consecutive years of year-to-year growth for the period, reported the American Petroleum Institute Apr. 15.

An estimated 11,071 oil wells, gas wells, and dry holes were completed in 2009's first 3 months, 22% less than in 2008's first quarter and 35% lower than the total for 2008's final quarter, API said in its latest quarterly well completion report.

"The lower US drilling activity indicates that the exploration and production sector is not immune to the current economic downturn and that they, like most industries, are facing tough business choices," said Hazem Arafa, director of API's statistics department.

He said the estimated number of new exploratory wells fell 11% from 2008's first quarter, while the estimated number of deep wells (those 15,000 ft or deeper) and shallow gas wells slipped 13% and 36%, respectively, year-to-year.

API estimates show that the resurgence of oil well completions, which began earlier in the decade, subsided this past quarter as the total fell 23% from a year earlier to 4,060 wells. Overall, estimated oil well completions' share of total drilling activity in the past 3 months was 36%, down from 40% a year earlier, it said.

Gas continues to be the primary domestic drilling target, with an estimated 5,735 wells completed during 2009's first quarter, API said. This was 23% lower than the total for the comparable 2008 period and represents the most severe quarterly decline for gas plays this decade, according to API.

Total estimated footage drilled during the first quarter reached 64.5 million ft, 30% less than in 2008's first 3 months. Total developmental oil well footage dropped 22% year-to-year, while estimated gas well footage fell 42%, API said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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