Natural Gas: North American Outlook ///

High-flying volatility is a nemesis to planning ahead for the long haul. Teetering is not a good game plan. A lot will depend on the strength of the economic recovery and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC's) ability to keep the players from gaming the system. The outlook in 2004 is for wellhead prices to average close to $5.00/MMBtu. We're on a roll with well drilling and reserve additions, if the addition numbers are accurate. But if we are to match supply with projected demand for the rest of this decade, we'd best be getting on with the program. Drilling is up and is likely to stay up as efforts are being made to ease some restrictions that have plagued the business. Look for a possible record year in drilling in 2004. On the flip side is the notion that there is a dearth of attractive prospects.

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