U.S. natural gas production climbed to a record high in February despite an over 50 percent drop in the U.S. gas rig count.

According to Platts Bentek, U.S. natural gas production in the Lower 48 averaged 73.3 billion cubic feet per day in February, up nearly 1.4 Bcfpd from January’s average.

Last month’s level is the highest production level on record since Platts Bentek began tracking the data in 2005.

On a month-over-month basis, February natural gas production climbed nearly 2 percent from January.

The month-over-month increase was driven by strong production in the Northeast that helped offset declines in other major U.S. basins.

Northeast gas production reached nearly 23.1 Bcfd in February, up by about 0.8 Bcfpd from average January levels.

“A combination of adequate demand and lack of freeze-offs helped producers push their production volumes to new highs,” Platts Bentek energy analyst Sami Yahya said.

For basins outside the Northeast, the February average was nearly flat or slightly declining from the previous month, according to the report.

“While the number of active rigs in the Northeast is currently at its lowest historically, the availability of inventory wells is helping producers keep their production numbers leveled,” Yahya said.

Yahya added that the number of inventory wells has been “declining steadily” since November of 2015, a signal the producers are “dipping into their inventory more than ever.”

Prior to November of 2015, the Northeast had about 2,700 wells in backlog inventory but that level fell to about 2,000 wells in January.

The Utica formation is the only area in the Northeast that didn’t see a drop in inventory well numbers.

“The big focus now within the Utica is the drier areas, where the initial production rates of new wells are incredibly high. This means you do not need to bring online as many wells to help keep production afloat,” Yahya said.

Platts Bentek data analysis suggests 2016 U.S. natural gas production will average about 71.6 Bcfpd, with some growth geared toward the end of the year.

The expected production dip in 2016 would mark a year-over-year decline of less than 1 percent, Platts Bentek added.

The total U.S. gas rig count fell to 89 rigs as of March 18 after losing five rigs, down from 242 rigs a year ago.


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