Energy rigs in the U.S. fell to the lowest level since April as rapid growth driven by the initial exploration of U.S. shale basins moderated and drillers became more efficient.
Total rigs slid by 17 to 1,744 this week, Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI), a Houston-based field-services company, said on its website. Oil rigs declined by seven to 1,362. Gas rigs dropped by 10 to 376. The miscellaneous rig count was unchanged at six.
“The U.S. onshore market is taking a breather in 2013” after three years of rapid growth, James West, an oilfield services analyst for Barclays Plc in New York, wrote in a Sept. 23 research note.
Exploitation of shale basins using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques has pushed U.S. crude output to its highest level since 1989. The resurgence in production helped the U.S. meet 87 percent of its energy needs in the first five months of 2013, on pace to be the highest annual rate since 1986, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The total rig count is down 5.6 percent from a year ago. U.S. oil output slid to 7.77 million barrels a day last week, the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, reported on Sept. 25.
West said drillers are now focusing on deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
Recent discoveries are “leading to an acceleration of operator interest in the U.S. GOM not seen since the lifting of the deepwater moratorium in late 2010,” he wrote.
Gulf rigs slid by one to 62 last week, Baker Hughes said.
Crude for November delivery slipped 22 cents to $102.81 a barrel at 1:28 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are down 1.8 percent this week and have advanced 12 percent in the past year.
Natural gas for November delivery declined 0.1 cent to $3.566 per million British thermal units. That’s down 3.3 percent in September and up 8.2 percent from a year ago.
U.S. gas stockpiles gained 87 billion cubic feet last week to 3.386 trillion, the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, reported yesterday. Supplies were 5 percent below year-earlier levels and 0.9 percent above the five-year average.
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