Natural gas production slipping in Oklahoma

Saturday, November 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Natural gas production is declining in Oklahoma, down by 20 percent compared to last year.

Natural gas production totaled 878 billion cubic feet at the end of August, down from 1.09 trillion cubic feet at the end of August 2000, according to figures released recently by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

In fact, overall energy production is down this year, said Larry Claxton, who heads the Corporation Commission's statistics department. Records show lower amounts of drilling rig activity, drilling permits, well pluggings and energy prices.

``Until two months ago, all the indicators were up except production,'' Claxton said. ``Now all the indicators are down.''

Claxton said production totals might increase slightly when late reports are complete.

Natural gas production has been declining since May, when total gas production was 84.1 billion cubic feet. Production in August totaled 53.8 billion cubic feet.

Drilling permits, totaling about 400 per month in the year's first half, also have been dropping quickly. October had 283 permits and there will be fewer than that this month, Claxton said.

He said a decrease in well pluggings indicates operators are feeling too poor to afford plugging a dry hole.

Oil production in Oklahoma also hasn't fared well recently. The year-to-date total at the end of August was 42.3 million barrels of oil, down from 47.3 million at the same time last year.

Oklahoma energy production has skidded during a period when natural gas prices sunk from a record of $10 per thousand cubic feet in January to as low as $1.75 per thousand cubic feet in October. This month the Oklahoma index price for natural gas rose to a respectable $3.05.

Oil prices slowly have slid to less than $20 a barrel.

``Everything is on the bad side right now, that's for sure,'' Claxton said.

One encouraging indicator appeared Friday, as the Baker Hughes count of Oklahoma active rotary rigs rose for the second week in a row. Oklahoma's rig count peaked July 13 at 160, then slid to 91 by Nov. 2. This week it was at 94.