CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian oil and gas drilling activity will climb 5 percent in 2018 as a gradual uptick in crude prices gives rise to cautious optimism among producers, an industry body forecast on Tuesday.
The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) expects energy firms to drill 7,900 wells next year, up from 7,550 in 2017. The biggest increase in activity will be in Canada's main crude oil and gas-producing province of Alberta.
Based on PSAC's forecast, next year will be the busiest for drilling since 2014, when oil prices crashed because of global oversupply.
The 2018 estimate is still 30 percent below 2014 well totals, highlighting the slow speed of recovery. U.S. crude prices are hovering just under $55 a barrel <CLc1>, well below early 2014 prices of above $100.
"For 2018, confidence that oil will stay in the low-to-mid $50 range as markets tighten and inventories reduce, along with growing interest in Canada's vast liquids rich natural gas, should support a 4 to 5 percent increase in activity levels," PSAC president Mark Salkeld said in a statement.
He also called for more export pipelines to ship Canadian oil and gas to market, warning that TransCanada Corp's <TRP.TO> recent decision to cancel its Energy East project was a blow to investor confidence.
(Reporting by Nia Williams, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)