BHI: US rig count plunges 29 units to lowest total since May 2002

In a shift reminiscent of the freefall that occurred earlier this year, the overall US drilling rig count plunged 29 units during the week ended Oct. 2 to a total of 809, the lowest since May 3, 2002, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc.

The count has now fallen in 6 consecutive weeks, giving up 76 units during that time. The recent decline follows a small summer rebound in which the total climbed 28 units over a 9-week period from a nadir of 857 to a plateau of 885.

The count is now down 1,113 units year-over-year and 1,122 units since a peak of 1,931 most recently touched on Sept. 26, 2014.

Anchors aweigh for oil rigs

Oil-directed rigs again made up a bulk of the downward shift, dropping 26 units to 614, down 977 year-over-year and 987 since a recent peak of 1,601 on Sept. 19, 2014. Oil-directed rigs have now fallen in 5 straight weeks, losing 61 units over that time.

Gas-directed rigs dropped 2 units to 195, down 135 year-over-year.

Land-based rigs dropped 24 units to 776, down 1,074 year-over-year. Rigs engaged in horizontal drilling fell 20 units to 609, down 732 year-over-year and 763 since a recent peak of 1,372 on Nov. 21, 2014. Directional drilling rigs dropped 3 units to 83.

While most of the rigs that went offline were onshore, this week’s big drilling story took place offshore Alaska with Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s decision to pull out of the Arctic after a “disappointing exploration outcome.” The now plugged Burger J well was drilled by Transocean Ltd.’s Polar Pioneer semisubmersible rig (OGJ Online, Sept. 28, 2015).

The US offshore count dropped 3 units, including 2 in the Gulf of Mexico, to a total of 30. Offshore rigs are now down 31 year-over-year. Rigs drilling in inland waters decreased 2 units to 3.

The US Energy Information Administration noted last week that the gulf rig count has fallen more rapidly in recent years compared with the rest of the world (OGJ Online, Sept. 25, 2015).

The number of rigs in the gulf fell from 122 in January 2000 to 41 in January 2010, before dropping to 19 in June 2010 following the Macondo well blowout and Deepwater Horizon explosion. The count recovered to 57 by December 2014.

In Canada, meanwhile, its rig count rose for the first time in 7 weeks, adding 3 units to reach a total of 179, still down 251 year-over-year. The oil-directed count posted its first gain in 9 weeks, up 4 units to 70, down 179 year-over-year. Gas-directed rigs edged down a unit to 109.

Texas, Oklahoma lead losses

Oklahoma led the major oil-and gas-producing states with an 8-unit drop to 97, down 115 year-over-year and its lowest total since Dec. 31, 2009. The Cana Woodford decreased 3 units to 37 while the Ardmore was cut in half to 2.

Texas fell 6 units to 357, down 538 year-over-year and its lowest total since Aug. 14, 2009. The Permian dropped 5 units to 245, down 311 year-over-year, while the Eagle Ford dropped 3 units to 82, down 128 year-over-year.

Despite the shrinking rig count, production in Texas during August totaled 110.5 million bbl, up 12.3% year-over-year, and remains on schedule to break the annual record set more than 40 years ago, according from data obtained by the Texas Association of Energy Producers (TAEP) (OGJ Online, Oct. 1, 2015).

TAEP notes the oversupply of crude oil in Texas has driven down just about every industry economic indicator, including the price of oil, the rig count, drilling permits, well completions, employment, and thus the index itself.

Louisiana and New Mexico each relinquished 3 units to respective totals of 66 and 46. Pennsylvania and Colorado each fell 3 units to 30 apiece. The total is Colorado’s lowest since Mar. 21, 2003, and Pennsylvania’s lowest since May 22, 2009.

The DJ-Niobrara dropped 3 units to 26. Bill Barrett Corp. said this week that it will reduce its DJ basin rig count from 2 rigs to 1 as a result of improvements in drilling and completion operations. The Marcellus dropped 2 units to 47.

Alaska dropped 2 units to 11. North Dakota and California each edged down 1 unit to 65 and 13, respectively. North Dakota’s total is its lowest since Dec. 31, 2009.

Wyoming and Utah were unchanged from a week ago at 24 and 5, respectively. Ohio, West Virginia, Kansas, and Arkansas each edged up 1 unit to respective totals of 20, 18, 10, and 4.

Contact Matt Zborowski at

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