US petroleum producers are looking forward to better times in 2017 as the industry has passed the low-point in the cycle and embarked on the road to renewed expansion.
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LONDON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - U.S. petroleum producers are looking forward to better times in 2017 as the industry has passed the low-point in the cycle and embarked on the road to renewed expansion.
Domestic oil and gas production hit a trough in the first half of 2016 and showed signs of rising in the second half as drilling picked up in response to higher prices.
U.S. oil output was essentially flat between July and October 2016, after sliding between April 2015 and June 2016.
Gas output also held steady between July and October, after declining earlier in the year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The downward trend in oil and gas output has been arrested by a significant upturn in the number of rigs drilling onshore, especially in West Texas.
The number of rigs drilling oil-rich formations across the United States has risen by more than 200, or 65 percent, from its low at the end of May (http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvgBgI).
The number of gas rigs is up by 55, or 68 percent, from its low at the end of August, according to oilfield services company Baker Hughes.
More than half of all the new rigs have been added in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, which has emerged as the top shale oil play in the United States.
The Permian's stacked layers of organically rich but relatively shallow shale formations make them an ideal target for drillers seeking to add low-cost, low-risk oil production in a low-price environment.
The Permian has long been among the most productive petroliferous sedimentary basins in the world and is among the best explored ("Petroleum geology and hydrocarbon plays of the Permian Basin", Robinson, 1988).
But until the advent of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing oil and gas could only be produced from the sandstone and carbonate reservoirs where it had migrated underground.
Now drilling companies can target the thick impermeable shale layers which are the source of most of the oil and gas that has made the basin a top producer in the past.
Thanks to improvements in targeting, drilling and fracturing efficiency, Permian wells are now producing almost 60 percent more during their first 30 days than in 2014, and the benefits are persisting in subsequent months.
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