Low energy prices push down US drilling activity

US drilling activity continued to plunge, with more rigs idled both on land and offshore, industry sources reported Friday. There were 928 rotary rigs working in the US and its waters this week, 24 fewer than the previous week and down substantially from 1,088 during the same period a year ago when energy commodity prices were higher.

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Dec. 7 -- US drilling activity continued to plunge, with more rigs idled both on land and offshore, industry sources reported Friday.

There were 928 rotary rigs working in the US and its waters this week, 24 fewer than the previous week and down substantially from 1,088 during the same period a year ago when energy commodity prices were higher, said officials at Baker Hughes Inc., Houston.

Onshore operations led the decline with 782 land rigs active this week, 17 fewer than last week. Baker Hughes representatives also counted 127 offshore rigs actually drilling in US waters during the week, down 7 from a week ago. That included 123 in Gulf of Mexico waters, 6 fewer than last week. Another 19 rigs were working in inland waters, unchanged from the previous week.

Of the US rigs working this week, Baker Hughes reported, 769 were drilling for natural gas, down 16 from last week. The other 159 rotary rigs were drilling for oil, down 8 from the previous week. Among the active US rigs, 250 were doing directional drilling, down 2. There were also 74 rigs drilling horizontal wells, an increase of 2.

Texas led the decline, down 5 rigs to 384 this week. Louisiana had 178 rigs working, down 3; while California's rig count was down 4 to 31. Rig counts in Oklahoma and New Mexico were unchanged at 81 and 41, respectively.

However, Wyoming's rig count increased by 1 to 43. There were 14 rotary rigs working in Alaska, up 1 from the previous week.

Baker Hughes also reported 274 rotary rigs working in Alaska this week. That's 17 more than the previous week but down sharply from 409 a year ago.

ODS-Petrodata Group, Houston, blamed flagging demand for the net loss of three jack up rigs that came off contracts in the Gulf of Mexico with no new jobs this week. Rig utilization in those waters dipped 1.5 points to 60.2%, with 124 mobile offshore drilling units under contract out of the 205 available.

Utilization in European waters remained unchanged at 95.2% with 99 mobile offshore rigs contracted out of 104. The loss in the US gulf pushed down worldwide utilization to 81.5% with 532 mobile offshore rigs contracted out of a total fleet of 653.

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