06/01/2011 04:57 EDT | Updated 08/01/2011 05:12 EDT

Canadian Association Of Oilwell Drilling Contractors: Oil, Gas Activity Is Stronger Than Expected

CANADIAN PRESS - CALGARY - This year's oil and gas drilling activity is turning out to be stronger than an industry group expected back in the fall.

The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors predicts activity levels during the second, third, and fourth quarters will be 24 per cent higher than its October forecast.

During the first quarter -- typically the busiest time of year for the sector -- the industry ran an average of 534 drilling rigs, up from the 480 the CAODC anticipated.

The group attributes the surprising strength to higher commodity prices, a favourable investment climate and good geology.

It expects more than 13,000 wells to be drilled this year -- an 11 per cent increase over what it expected.

Companies are shifting more of their focus to drilling oil wells, since crude is trading at a much higher price than natural gas.