Estimated U.S. Drilling Activity Hits 21-Year High

U.S. drilling estimates in the third quarter of 2006 show that the U.S. drilling pace remains strong, with nearly twice the level of activity recorded during the lows of the early to mid-1990s, API reported.

According to API's 2006 Quarterly Well Completion Report: Third Quarter, a 21-year high estimated 37,261 oil wells, natural gas wells and dry holes were completed in the first three quarters of 2006. In the third quarter alone, there were an estimated 12,687 completions. This figure is the highest single quarter estimate since the first quarter of 1986 and the twelfth consecutive quarter of increases in estimated U.S. drilling activity.

Strong year-to-year gains in the last decade have resulted in best-ever natural gas drilling and completion numbers. An estimated all-time high of 21,897 natural gas wells were completed in the first nine months of 2006, an estimated 7,480 of those in the third quarter, an all-time quarter high for natural gas drilling activity in the U.S.

API's third quarter estimates show that drilling is not as skewed toward gas wells as it once was. In the first three quarters of 2006, an estimated 11,545 oil wells were completed, an estimated 3,960 in the third quarter. This third quarter estimate exceeds every quarter of this decade and the 1990s.

Quarter-to-quarter comparisons show total completions in the third quarter of 2006 increased 9 percent compared with the same period of 2005. Oil well completions rose 11 percent while natural gas completions were up 9 percent over year-ago levels. API also reported total estimated footage drilled in the first three quarters and the 3rd quarter of 2006 at 212,523 feet and 73,107 feet respectively. The last time estimated total footage drilled was this high was back in 1985.