U.S. drillers add oil and gas rigs for a record 23 months


Texas Drilling Rig

U.S. energy firms this week added oil and natural gas rigs for a second week in a row, in a record 23-month streak of increases, as high crude prices and prodding by the government prompted drillers to return to the wellpad.

The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose 13 to 753 in the week to June 24, its highest since March 2020, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said in its closely followed report on Friday.

Baker Hughes said that puts the total rig count up 283, or 60%, over this time last year.

U.S. oil rigs rose 10 to 594 this week, their highest since March 2020, while gas rigs gained three to 157, their highest since September 2019.

That put the overall oil and gas rig count up for a record 23 months in a row, gaining 26 in June. It also put the count up for seven quarters in a row, the longest streak of gains since 2011.

The oil rig count was up for a record 22 months in a row, rising 20 in June. It also increased for a seventh quarter, the most quarters since 2012.

The gas rig count rose by six in June, rising for a 10th month in a row, tying the record set in May 2010. It also put the gas count up for seven quarters in a row, matching the record set in 2004.

Even though the total rig count has risen for seven straight quarters, oil production this year is forecast to remain below pre-pandemic record levels as many companies focus more on returning money to investors and paying down debt rather than boosting output. They also say supply-chain issues are hurting their operations.

U.S. crude production was on track to rise from 11.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2021 to 11.9 million bpd in 2022 and 13.0 million bpd in 2023, according to federal energy data. That compares with a record 12.3 million bpd in 2019.

U.S. crude prices are up about 42% to around $107 a barrel so far this year, boosted by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting the U.S. government to urge drillers to produce more oil and gas to reduce domestic prices.

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