After 4 Years of Growth, Texas Production Activity Hits Plateau

Texas' oil and natural gas production-related activity has plateaued after more than four years of steady growth, according to an index compiled by the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

The Texas Petro Index of price data, rig counts, employment and other factors reached its highest level in 12 years of records last year, but for the past four months it has flattened out. Rig counts and the number of drilling permits issued have particularly contributed to the plateau, economists said.

Since 2002, the number of rigs in operation on- and offshore in the state has climbed from 300 to nearly 800, but the number has remained steady for several months. New drilling permits peaked at more than 1,800 in August, but have since dropped. Employment continues to increase, as does exploration and production.

Petroleum economist Karr Ingham said that while the two other peaks in the record -- November 1997 and August 2001 -- were followed by sharp drops, he did not think that would happen this time because of high oil prices. "I think we're going to see a period of relative stability for producers and consumers, with prices remaining at this relatively high level," he said (Tom Fowler, Houston Chronicle).

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