Texas oil and gas drilling climbs in March, but well completions slip

An oil derrick stands above the plains north of Amarillo, Texas, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Texas shale producers applied for more than 1,300 oil and gas drilling permits last month with the majority awarded in the Permian basin, the most active U.S. oil patch, according to the state’s energy regulator.

Despite a near tripling of new well permits, to 1,310 wells compared with 511 during the same month last year, the Texas Railroad Commission data also showed a decline in the number of well completions, the final step before production can begin.

“This is a clear indication that drilling activity will increase at a steady pace compared to last year,” said Ed Longanecker, president of trade group Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association.

Natural gas well completions fell 60 percent to 77 from 194 in the same month a year ago. Oil completions fell 44 percent to 533 wells versus 947 wells a year earlier.

“Operators will begin to build DUC (drilled but uncompleted) inventory and evaluate each location for completion based on commodity prices, service costs and production potential,” Longanecker said, even though completions fell in March.

Texas’s 418 active drilling rigs accounts for about half of the U.S. rig counts, according to the latest Baker Hughes rig count data.

Reporting by Ruthy Munoz; Editing by Mary Milliken