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U.S. Oil Rig Count Flat; Oil Rig Fall Compensated by Gas

In its weekly release, Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. BHI reported flat numbers for the U.S. rig count (number of rigs searching for oil and gas in the country) with the previous week. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil futures are currently trading at around $49 per barrel.

Analysis of the Data

Weekly Summary: Rigs engaged in exploration and production in the U.S. totaled 404 in the week ended May 27, 2016. This was flat with the previous week which touched an all-time low.

The current nationwide rig count is less than half the prior-year level of 875. Notably, the count had peaked at 4,530 in 1981. Inversely, an all-time low was recorded at 488 during 1999. However, this was broken in March and since then the rig count has been touching new lows.

Rigs engaged in land operations were 374 compared with 375 in the previous week. Inland water activity involved six rigs, up by one from the prior week. Offshore drilling was flat at 24 units.

Natural Gas Rig Count: The count rose by two from last week to 87. In fact, the current natural gas rig count is almost 80% below the high of 1,606 reached in late summer 2008. In the year-ago period, there were 225 active natural gas rigs.

Oil Rig Count: The count was down by two from the previous week at 316. The number had skyrocketed to 1,609 in Oct 2014 – the highest figure to have been reported since Baker Hughes started breaking up oil and natural gas rig counts in 1987. The current tally is well below the previous year’s rig count of 646.

Rig Count by Type: The number of vertical drilling rigs was down by two to 46, while the horizontal/directional rig count (encompassing new drilling technology that can drill and extract gas from dense rock formations, also known as shale formations) was up by two to 358.

Gulf of Mexico (GoM): The GoM rig count was flat at 23 units.

Conclusion

Key Barometer of Drilling Activity: The Baker Hughes data, issued since 1944, acts as an important yardstick for energy service providers in gauging the overall business environment of the oil and gas industry.

An increase or decrease in the Baker Hughes rotary rig count weighs heavily on demand for energy services like drilling, completion and production provided by companies that include large-cap firms such as Halliburton Co. HAL, Schlumberger Ltd. SLB and Weatherford International plc WFT.

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