API: U.S. Well Completions Down 24% in 1Q

The estimated number of U.S. oil and natural gas wells and dry holes completed in the first quarter of 2010 -- 7,663 -- was 24 percent lower than 2009, halting an uptick in completion well activity that began in the second half of 2009, API's first-quarter drilling estimates indicate.

"This drop in drilling activity was somewhat unexpected. Looking at the rig activity, we expected first-quarter completions to at least maintain their fourth-quarter 2009 level," said Hazem Arafa, director of API's statistics department. "Upon closer inspection, we noticed that a considerable uptick in permits and rig activity occurred closer to the end of the first quarter. We therefore expect this increased activity to result in an uptick in completions in the second quarter."

For the first quarter, the estimated number of exploratory oil and natural gas wells fell 16 percent from 2009, to 495 wells, while the estimated number development oil and natural gas wells dove 25 percent to 6,375 wells.

Continuing a trend started in the second quarter of 2009, there were more oil wells completed (3,654) than natural gas (3,216) wells. While the estimated number of first-quarter natural gas well completions fell 36 percent from 2009, the estimated number of first-quarter oil well completions dipped just 9 percent, to 3,654, the report found. This trend was particularly apparent in the exploratory well completion rate, where first-quarter exploratory oil well completions totaled 240 in both 2009 and 2010, but natural gas exploration completions slipped 27 percent to 255 well completions, compared with 349 for the same quarter of 2009, the report estimated.

API also reported total estimated footage of 49.93 million feet drilled for the first quarter, a 22 percent drop from the corresponding quarter of 2009.