Dec 5 - North American gas production will likely remain flat to slightly down in the next 12 months, but Standard & Poor's Ratings Services sees few catalysts for a pick up in demand, according to a published report titled "The Recent Jump In U.S. Natural Gas Prices Isn't Likely To Entice Oil And Gas Exploration And Production Companies." Gas prices are likely to remain below $4 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in 2013 unless the supply-demand dynamic changes significantly. Prices have rebounded 88% since April to about $3.45/mcf on the New York Mercantile Exchange from $1.84/mcf. More meaningful for oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) companies planning their capital budgets, the forward-12-month price (or the price companies pay for future deliveries) now averages $3.23/mcf, up from $2.56 in April. "Although prices have gained some lost ground, they remain substantially lower than before the economic crisis of 2008. Gas is now more abundant and industrial and commercial demand is stagnant," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Ben Tsocanos. E&P companies have moved drilling rigs out of areas that hold mainly natural gas reserves and into regions bearing more profitable crude oil and natural gas liquids. The number of rigs drilling for natural gas dropped to 413 from 877 a year ago. Production, however, has not fully reflected the effect of the shift, and we expect 2013 gas output in the U.S. to be about the same as this year's--even though the pace of drilling new gas wells slowed. The report is available to subscribers of RatingsDirect on the Global Credit Portal at www.globalcreditportal.com. If you are not a RatingsDirect subscriber, you may purchase a copy of the report by calling (1) 212-438-7280 or sending an e-mail to email@example.com. Ratings information can also be found on Standard & Poor's public Web site by using the Ratings search box located in the left column at www.standardandpoors.com.