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Oil, Gas Drilling Rigs in U.S. Decline by Most Since March

Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Rigs targeting oil and gas in the U.S. slid this week by the most in five months as producers pulled equipment from less active plays.

The total count declined by 15 to 1,776, the largest drop since March 22, data posted on Baker Hughes Inc.’s website show. Oil rigs fell 15 to 1,382, gas rigs slipped by one to 387, and miscellaneous rigs rose by one to seven, the Houston-based field services company said. The biggest losses occurred in the Mississippian and Permian basins of the U.S. Southwest. Five rigs were added in Texas’s Eagle Ford play. There was no change in the Williston, home to North Dakota’s Bakken formation.

The total rig count has advanced six out of eight weeks as producers boost their drilling programs in response to a surge in crude prices this year and a rebound in gas futures. The increase in output helped the U.S. meet 87 percent of its energy needs in the first four months of 2013, on pace to be the highest annual rate since 1985.

“The two big sources of U.S. crude production increases, the Eagle Ford and the Bakken, are either flat or up,” James Williams, president of energy consultant WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas, said by telephone. “So despite the drop in other places, the oil rigs are where we need them.”

Crude for October delivery advanced $1.39, or 1.3 percent, to settle at $106.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 11 percent in the past year and 16 percent in 2013.

Output Slips

U.S. oil output slipped 53,000 barrels a day to 7.52 million after hitting the highest level since December 1989 a week earlier. Stockpiles fell a third week, losing 1.43 million barrels to 359.1 million.

Oil production in the Eagle Ford rose 60 percent in June from a year earlier to 617,884 barrels of crude a day, preliminary data released by the Texas Railroad Commission, show. Rigs in the Eagle Ford play gained to 234, while rigs in the Williston were unchanged at 182.

The count in the Permian basin dropped eight to 466, while the Mississippian lost four to 70.

Natural gas for September delivery fell 6 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $3.485 per million British thermal units on the Nymex, up 24 percent from a year ago.

U.S. gas stockpiles gained 57 billion cubic feet last week to 3.063 trillion, bigger than the five-year average gain for the week of 56 billion cubic feet, the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, said yesterday. Supplies were 7.2 percent below year-earlier inventories.

Rigs on land dropped by 14 to 1,692. Rigs in inland waters slipped by one to 22. The offshore rig count, primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, was unchanged at 62, the most since February 2009.

Energy rigs in Canada gained 25 to 383.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lynn Doan in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at

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