US: Baker-Hughes Rig Count

Fri May 05 12:00:00 CDT 2017

Actual Previous
N. Amer. Rig Count 959 955
U.S. 877 870
Gulf of Mexico 18 17
Canada 82 85

The Baker Hughes North American rig count is up 4 in the May 5 week to 959. The U.S. rig count is up 7 to 877 and is up 462 rigs from last year. The Canadian count is down 3 from last week to 82, but compared to last year is up 46 rigs.

For the U.S. count, rigs classified as drilling for oil are up 6 to 703, gas rigs are up 2 to 173, and miscellaneous rigs are down 1 to 1. For the Canadian count, oil rigs are up 3 to 27 and gas rigs are down 6 to 55.

The slowdown in the decline of the Canadian count this week allows the North American count to post the first weekly increase since February 24. A steep drop in the Canadian count, which happens every year as something called the Spring Breakup makes Canadian rig operations nearly impossible, has been masking a strong climb in the U.S. count this year, up every week almost without interruption. Since the start of the Spring Breakup at the beginning of March, the U.S. count has risen by 103 rigs, while the Canadian count fell by 258 rigs. But both in the U.S. and Canada, Spring Breakup notwithstanding, the number of rigs drilling for oil and gas has more than doubled since last year at this time.

Although the full magnitude of the state of oil and gas exploration in North America will be revealed only when the weather allows Canadian rigs to function again, usually at the end of the Spring breakup around the end of May, it already appears that unlike many other parts of the world, oil prices around $50 per barrel and gas prices at around $3.00 per MMBTU are attractive enough for North American oil and gas exploration companies. Their international counterparts, however, are not as comfortable with exploration and development at current prices, and have not only given up a big lead in the count on North America, but have been surpassed by it, as shown In Baker Hughes' worldwide rig count for April. While the North American count rose from 478 to 961 year-on-year, the international count excluding North America was nearly flat, rising from 946 to 956 rigs.

The Baker Hughes North American rig count tracks weekly changes in the number of active operating oil & gas rigs. Used for drilling wellbores for wells that may eventually produce oil or gas, active rigs are essential for the exploration and development of oil and gas fields. Rigs that are not active are not counted. Components in the data are the United States and Canada with a separate count for the Gulf of Mexico (which is a subset of the U.S. total). The count includes only rigs that are significant users of oilfield services and supplies.

Changes in rig counts point to changes in the supply of oil & gas. The higher the rig count, the greater the upward pressure is on oil & gas supply and in turn the greater the downward pressure is on oil & gas prices. The reverse applies when rig counts turn lower, as they did during the oil price collapse of 2014-15 when lower counts contributed to a subsequent decline in domestic oil inventories. Data on the Gulf of Mexico offer indications on production disruptions during the hurricane season (June 1st to November 30th).