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Now that the boom has run its inevitable course and gone bust, we asked major and independent operators what they did in 2008, and what their plans were for 2009. Predicting activity levels depends on prices-that’s nothing new. But since our surveys took place over the late November–early January timeframe, the sharp drop in December rig counts means that operators’ estimates of 2009 activity depended on what week they responded. That fact, combined with the possibility that a deep, long recession, already more than a year old, could grow into a depression with double-digit unemployment, means that this is a true “crystal ball” forecast. The old Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times” is both a blessing and a curse, and it best describes the situation our industry finds itself in today.
Majors were surprisingly pessimistic, indicating a 26% drop this year, while independents said they expected to drill “only” 12% fewer wells in 2009. For 2008, state agencies and other data showed
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