U.S. drillers add oil and gas rigs for record 24th month

U.S. energy firms this week added oil and natural gas rigs for a record 24 months in a row as oil majors post blowout earnings on surging crude and gas prices.

The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose nine to 767 in the week to July 29, 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 279, or 57%, over this time last year.

U.S. oil rigs rose six to 605 this week, their highest since March 2020, while gas rigs increased two to 157.

For the month, the total oil and gas rig count rose 14, the smallest increase since September.

In July, the oil rig count rose 11, increasing for a record 23rd month in a row, while the gas count was unchanged after rising for 10 straight months.

The two largest U.S. oil companies, Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp, posted record revenue on Friday, bolstered by surging crude oil and gas prices and following similar results for European majors a day earlier.

The majors have been disciplined with their capital and are resisting ramping up capital expenditure due to pressure from investors who want better returns and resilience during a down cycle.

Even though the total rig count has climbed for a record 24 months through July, weekly increases have mostly been in the single digits and oil production is still below pre-pandemic record levels.

Demand for hydraulic fracturing equipment is quickly outpacing supply, executives said nL1N2Z82Q6 this week, setting the stage for a new obstacle to U.S. oil and gas production growth.

U.S. crude oil production slid by about 0.5% to nearly 11.6 million barrels per day in May nL1N2ZA1VH, its lowest since February, official data showed.

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