In its weekly release, Houston-based oilfield services company
Baker Hughes Inc.
) reported a dip in the U.S. rig count (number of rigs searching
for oil and gas in the country). This fall can be attributed to
cutbacks in the tally of oil-directed rigs, partially offset by
increase in natural gas rig count.
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The Baker Hughes rig count, issued since 1944, acts as an important
yardstick for drilling contractors such as
Helmerich & Payne
), etc. in gauging the overall business environment of the oil and
Analysis of the Data
Rigs engaged in exploration and production in the U.S. totaled
1,837 for the week ended October 5, 2012. This was down by 11 from
the previous week's rig count and represents the seventh decrease
in 8 weeks.
Despite this, the current nationwide rig count is more than double
than that of the 6-year low of 876 (in the week ended June 12,
2009) though it is below the prior-year level of 2,012. It rose to
a 22-year high in 2008, peaking at 2,031 in the weeks ending August
29 and September 12.
Rigs engaged in land operations descended by 8 to 1,773, offshore
drilling was down by 2 to 48 rigs, while inland waters activity
decreased by 1 to 16 units.
Natural Gas Rig Count:
The natural gas rig count - which recently slumped to a 13-year low
of 435 - increased for the third time in 7 weeks to 437 (a gain of
2 rigs from the previous week). Despite the weekly improvement, the
number of gas-directed rigs is down 53% from its 2011 peak of 936,
reached during mid-October.
In fact, the current natural gas rig count remains 73% below its
all-time high of 1,606 reached in late summer 2008. In the year-ago
period, there were 935 active natural gas rigs.
Oil Rig Count:
The oil rig count - which was at a 25-year high of 1,432 in August
- was down by 12 to 1,398. Nevertheless, the current tally is way
above the previous year's rig count of 1,070. It has recovered
strongly from a low of 179 in June 2009, rising by almost 8 times.
Miscellaneous Rig Count:
The miscellaneous rig count (primarily drilling for geothermal
energy) at 2 was down by 1 from the previous week.
Rig Count by Type:
The number of vertical drilling rigs fell by 3 to 511, while the
horizontal/directional rig count (encompassing new drilling
technology that has the ability to drill and extract gas from dense
rock formations, also known as shale formations) was down by 8 at
1,326. In particular, horizontal rig units - that reached an
all-time high of 1,193 in May this year - decreased by 10 from the
last week's level to 1,132.