At this point in the year, 33 of the largest American oil producers have 26 percent of their output hedged, compared with 24 percent and 23 percent of production in 2016 and 2015, respectively. That group has hedged 648,000 barrels a day of production since the fourth quarter of 2016, a 33 percent increase from the previous quarter. Anadarko Petroleum and Apache, two of the nation’s largest independent producers, accounted for 28 percent of that volume. That hedging is already looking like a sound investment. Oil prices have dipped back below $50 in recent weeks on concerns about rising U.S. production, particularly in the Permian Basin, and uncertainty over whether OPEC will extend its output curbs by another six months. “One thing OPEC has to worry about is if they don’t extend the production cuts, a lot of that Permian production was hedged when oil was in the mid $50s. Even if we fall back further, that production is coming on,” Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, told CNBC on Monday. McConn at Wood Mackenzie cautions against overstating the impact of hedging, though. Weaker oil prices mean drillers have fewer opportunities to hedge their production for 2018. Wood Mackenzie believes producers need crude to recover to about $55 a barrel in order to fund planned increases in oil production next year. U.S. crude prices were trading at about $49 on Wednesday after government data showed a smaller-than-expected weekly rise in oil stockpiles. “We think this same group of producers would be amendable to adding hedges” if the market provides the opportunity to lock in prices at $55 or $60 a barrel, McConn said.