(Adds highest shale oil output since May, natgas data)
NEW YORK, Feb 13 (Reuters) - U.S. shale oil production for March is expected to rise by the most in five months to its highest rate since May last year, government data showed on Monday, as energy companies boost drilling on the back of crude prices that are hovering over $50 a barrel.
March oil production is forecast to rise by nearly 79,000 barrels per day to 4.87 million bpd, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s drilling productivity report. That would be the biggest monthly rise since October.
In the Permian shale play of West Texas and New Mexico, output is forecast to rise by more than 70,000 bpd to 2.25 million bpd, in what would be the biggest monthly rise since January 2016.
Meanwhile, Eagle Ford production in Texas is expected to rise by 14,000 bpd to 1.08 million bpd, the first monthly increase since December 2015, EIA data showed.
In North Dakota’s Bakken field, production is forecast to fall by nearly 18,000 bpd to 976,000 bpd, the fifth consecutive month-on-month decrease.
U.S. natural gas production from the seven biggest shale basins was projected to increase to a record high 49.1 billion cubic feet per day in March, the EIA said.
That would be up over 0.5 bcfd from February and would be a third monthly increase in a row.
EIA projected output would decline in only one region in March, the Eagle Ford. Output there is expected to ease by 25 million cubic feet per day to almost 5.6 bcfd, its lowest level since November 2013.
Output in the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, meanwhile, is set to rise by almost 0.2 bcfd to a record high 19.1 bcfd in March, a fifth consecutive increase.
EIA also said producers drilled 760 wells and completed 668 in the biggest shale basins in January, leaving total drilled but uncompleted wells (DUCs) up 92 at 5,381, the most since April. (Reporting by Catherine Ngai and Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Leslie Adler)