With AFP Story by Veronique DUPONT: US-E

US oil production continues to improve despite the recent drop in oil prices and a declining rig count. The reason? Improved drilling productivity, particularly in shale.

“The headline U.S. oil rig count offers little insight into the outlook for U.S. oil production growth,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst Damien Courvalin wrote in a Feb. 10 report. – As reported by Bloomberg

The growth in US oil production in the last three years, an increase of a million barrels per year, has contributed to a global glut in oil. The glut has caused a drop in oil prices leading many drillers to scale back operations and trim work forces. Drillers are now focusing their attention on the most productive regions and using the best equipment.

Production in the Bakken shale in North Dakota provides some evidence. As of January the number of rigs had declined to 161, down from a peak of 194 in September, 2014. Yet the amount of oil pumped per rig increased 8.9 percent, and the EIA forecasts that output from the region will reach a record 1.32 million barrels per day in March.

Combined oil production in the five US shale regions is projected to expand by 289,890 barrels per day in the first three months of 2015, 3.4 percent more than was added in the same time period of 2014 according to the EIA. Due to the increased productivity per rig, more than 200 additional rigs would have to be idled to just to hold oil production flat. Some analysts project that production declines may finally become apparent in April.