U.S. drillers keep oil and gas rigs unchanged this week

U.S. energy firms this week left oil and natural gas rigs unchanged as crude output only slowly recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic with many producers still more focused on returning money to shareholders.

The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, were flat at 727 in the week to June 3, Baker Hughes Co said in its closely followed report on Friday.

The energy services firm said that puts the total rig count up 271, or 59%, over this time last year.

U.S. oil rigs were steady at 574 this week, while gas rigs held at their highest since September 2019 at 151.

So far this year, U.S. oil prices have jumped 58% and gas futures have more than doubled as global demand soared with many countries seeking to break their dependence on fuel from Russia after Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Even though the total rig count has climbed for a record 22 months in a row through May, weekly increases have mostly been in single digits and oil production is still below pre-pandemic levels.

Crude output rose in March by more than 3% to 11.7 million barrels per day (bpd), its highest since November but still below the record 12.3 million bpd hit in 2019, the Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday.

Monthly gross gas production, however, rose 1.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) to 106.4 bcfd in March, its highest since December 2021, but off its record of 108.2 bcfd in November 2021.

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