US Drilling Activity Gets Boost in Third Quarter

Despite continuing at a sluggish pace compared with a year ago, U.S. drilling activity rebounded somewhat in the third quarter, with total well completions up 10.2 percent from the second quarter, API's third quarter 2009 drilling estimates indicate. Still, the estimated total number of oil wells, natural gas wells and dry holes completed in the quarter -- 8,856 -- was down 46 percent from 2008's third quarter and remained at levels not seen since 2003-2004, according to API's 2009 Quarterly Well Completion Report: Third Quarter.

"The trend of declining well completions is a clear indication that oil and gas companies, which are facing declining earnings and threats of increased taxes, continued to carefully monitor their expenditures," said Hazem Arafa, director of API's statistics department.

The estimated number of third-quarter exploration oil and gas wells plunged 59 percent from 2008 to 327 wells, while the number of third-quarter development oil and gas wells dropped 46 percent to 7,430 wells in 2009, the report found.

Natural gas continues to be the primary target for domestic drilling, with an estimated 4,097 natural gas wells completed in the third quarter of 2009. This was down 49 percent from 2008's third quarter, the most severe quarterly decline for natural gas plays in this decade.

Oil well completion activity also was well below last year, with the 3,660 estimated completed oil wells in the third quarter down 44 percent from the same period of 2008.

API also reported total estimated footage of 50,716,000 feet drilled in the third quarter of 2009, a 53 percent decrease from third quarter 2008.