Logan Industries expanding staff for new facility at Port of Iberia _lowres

Drilling rigs are stacked at the Port of Iberia in 2016. The Lafayette area, which lost more than 10 percent of its employment the past two years, is projected in an economic forecast to take another oil slump hit before returning to job growth in 2019.

Oil and gas drilling activity is set to stage a comeback this year in North America, which will include gains in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, a trade publication reported Friday.

However, Kurt Abraham, World Oil's chief forecaster and editor, noted North American producers may have to remain flexible in the region's new role as a swing producer in a global market that has been awash in oil in recent years. Overproduction caused by weakened demand during the economic slump cut crude prices by more than half from mid-2014's $100 per barrel range.

Gulf of Mexico activity has been at historically low levels over the past several years, dropping to a low of 117 wells in 2016. World Oil projects that drilling will increase about 9 percent to 128 wells in the Gulf this year. A core of deepwater development activity that has been underway will contribute to the bulk of the work.

Drilling in the northern half of the state is expected to jump 31.2 percent, while the state's southern half is recovering at a more measured pace. Wells drilled are forecast to increase 12.8 percent to 123 for the state.

Overall, U.S. drilling will jump 26.8 percent to 18,552 wells, the publication said.

Separately Friday, Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. reported the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 18 this week to 712. A year ago, 619 rigs were active. The U.S. rig count bottomed out in May at 404.

Louisiana was up two rigs for the week to 53, which is two more than a year ago.

Other projected gains in drilling activity by World Oil are Canada, 21.6 percent to 4,212 wells; global drilling, 6.1 percent to 39,742 wells; and global offshore drilling, only 1.4 percent to 2,604 wells, with offshore activity outside North America remaining mostly stagnant.

World Oil's projections are based on survey data gathered from U.S. operators, U.S. state agencies, and international petroleum ministries and departments.