Saskatchewan has just posted its second-best year for drilling of oil wells and has broken a record, only a year old, for drilling of horizontal oil wells.

Year-end statistics from the Ministry of Energy and Resources show that 3,528 oil wells were drilled in 2011. That represents a 29 per cent increase over the figure for 2010 and is just shy of the record figure set in 1997.

That activity contributed to the new record for horizontal oil wells drilled last year. There were 1,992 of these wells drilled in 2011, a 30 per cent increase over 2010's previous record. Horizontal well drilling has become the standard in the Canadian oil industry and Saskatchewan was a pioneer in the application of these drilling technologies.

"Our oil industry continues to be one of Saskatchewan's economic drivers, and these numbers speak to the confidence the industry has in our province and the valuable oil resource we have here," Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd said. "Early on, the industry had the challenge of a wet spring, but obviously rebounded from that in impressive fashion."

The minister noted that more than 5,000 oil well licences were also issued last year.

"This take-up on well licences is not only reflective of the great drilling numbers we saw in 2011, but is also a sign of the industry activity we expect to see this year," Boyd said.

Saskatchewan's oil and gas industry recorded an estimated $11.7 billion in sales last year and invested roughly $4.2 billion in exploration and development activity. It provides direct and indirect employment for more than 32,000 people.

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