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PI REPORTS UNITED STATES DRILLING DROPS TO LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 1971

 HOUSTON, Jan. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Drilling for oil and natural gas in the United States fell sharply during 1992 as major oil companies and independents alike trimmed domestic exploration and production spending and eyed United States reserve purchases and exploration opportunities abroad. Drilling declined for both oil and gas in the United States last year and steep downturns were seen in exploration as well as field delineation operations.
 At the close of the year, according to Petroleum Information Corp. (PI), a total of 17,096 wells had been completed nationwide, down 22.7 percent from the 22,121 wells reported complete at the end of 1991.
 Well completions are recorded when testing is completed and a final well status is determined and reported. Therefore, data for any specific year are never complete at the end of that year.
 However, based on drilling trends and indicators to date, PI is estimating that the final United States well count for 1992 will total slightly more than 24,000 completions -- making the nation's lowest level of drilling in 21 years.
 Activity sagged in all classes of drilling in the United States during 1992, and also proved to be less successful overall. Drilling for oil eroded 27.5 percent in 1992, with 6,828 oil completions tallied domestically through year-end compared to 9,419 a year earlier. The number of gas completions, meanwhile, totaled 5,009 at the close of 1992, off 22.1 percent from 6,428 at the end of 1991. Rate of success for all classes of drilling in 1992 was 69.2 percent, down from the 71.6 percent success rate recorded a year ago.
 Footage drilled domestically for oil and gas in 1992 totaled 92,946,747 ft. at year-end, a decline of 17 percent from the 112,006,900 ft. of hole tallied at the close of 1991. Average depth of drilling, however, was 5,437 ft., nearly 400 ft. deeper than 1991's typical completion.
 New field exploration in the United States dropped 22.4 percent during 1992, with PI counting 1,505 wildcat completions through the end of the year compared to 1,859 the year before. The number of new oil field discoveries fell by 6 percent, from 149 to 140, while the nation's 105 new gas field discoveries in 1992 marked a 13.2 percent decrease from the 121 reported a year ago. Rate of success of new field exploration in 1992 was 16.3 percent, up slightly from the 14.5 percent rate registered at the end of 1991.
 Drilling in the nation's "other exploratory" class -- deeper or shallower pay tests and field extension work -- suffered the steepest downturn of any category of work in 1992, with the number of completions slumping 25 percent, from 2,004 to 1,503. "Other exploratory" oil completions fell by 23 percent, from 418 to 322, while gas completions in the category dropped 26 percent, to 250 from 338 the year before. Rate of success of all "other exploratory" work was 38.1 percent, compared to 37.7 percent in 1991.
 Domestic development drilling operations were also sluggish in 1992, with infill completions sagging by 22.8 percent, to 14,088 from 18,258 a year earlier. The 1992 efforts also proved to be less successful, with the rate of success of that work dropping by a full three percentage points to 78.2 percent. Development oil completions tumbled a sharp 28.1 percent, from 8,852 to 6,366, while the number of infill gas completions fell 22 percent, to 4,654 from 5,969 at the end of 1991.
 The nation's perennially three most heavily drilled states -- Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas -- all recorded substantive downturns in completion activity during 1992. Texas, which annually accounts for better than a third of the nation's drilling, saw its number of well completions slump 20 percent in 1992, to 6,389 from 7,944 at year-end 1991. Oil completions in the state fell 21.6 percent, from 4,127 to 3,237, while gas drilling dropped 9.2 percent, with 1,335 gas completions compared to 1,471 a year earlier.
 Drilling in Oklahoma eroded by 23.9 percent, with operators completing 1,678 wells in the state through the close of the year compared to 2,206 a year ago. A total of 628 oil wells were completed in Oklahoma through year-end, down 31.5 percent from 917 at the end of 1991. Gas completions in the state, meanwhile, fell 22.2 percent during 1992, dropping from 631 a year earlier to just 491.
 In Kansas, completion activity slumped 28.1 percent in 1992, with 1,443 well completions recorded through year-end compared to 2,008 the year before. Oil completions dropped 27.5 percent, from 720 to 522, while the state's 192 gas completions marked a 49.1 percent decline from its 377 gas completions at the close of 1991.
 The number of permits to drill for oil and gas in the United States rose marginally in 1992, with a total of 29,893 issued through the end of the year compared to 29,814 a year earlier. Permit issuances in both exploratory classes declined markedly during the year, while the number of permits granted for development operations improved by better than 4 percent.
 The number of permits issued to operators for new field wildcats totaled 2,369 at the close of 1992, a decrease of 14.2 percent from 2,761 a year ago. Permits for "other exploratory" work, meanwhile, fell 16.6 percent in 1992, to 2,996 from 3,592 a year earlier. By contrast, the count of permits granted for development wells climbed 4.5 percent in 1992, increasing from 23,461 at year-end 1991 to 24,528.
 New well starts in the United States totaled 20,116 at the end of 1991, off 8.4 percent from the 21,970 wells spudded domestically the year before.
 Wildcat starts fell 15.8 percent, from 2,148 to 1,808, while new well starts for exploratory wells in or near existing fields decreased 20.8 percent, to 2,299 from 2,903. Development well starts, meanwhile, eroded 5.4 percent in 1992, from 16,919 a year earlier to 16,009.
 -0- 1/12/93
 /CONTACT: Tom Cheney or Dana Cain of Petroleum Information, 303-740-7100/


CO: Petroleum Information Corp. ST: Texas IN: OIL SU:

MC -- DV007 -- 4117 01/12/93 14:31 EST
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Date:Jan 12, 1993
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