US rig count drops, as international numbers rise

The average U.S. rig count fell by more than 10 percent in May compared to the same month a year ago, even as the international rig count rose 4.7 percent, oil field services firm Baker Hughes said Friday.

The latest figures could be a reflection of some rigs becoming more efficient, allowing operators to get more days on a job out of each one.

Also, demand for onshore rigs has declined because of less natural gas drilling due to low natural gas prices in the U.S., while demand for offshore rigs has continued to be strong amid higher oil prices that have remained steady. There also has been a surge in onshore rigs drilling for oil in hot shale plays.

Weekly data from Baker Hughes shows that U.S. oil rigs increased year-over-year, while gas rigs declined. Rigs are drilling for oil in much greater numbers.

Read more: Demand for offshore rigs up, while onshore count keeps falling

Overall, the Houston-based firm said that the average U.S. rig count for May was 1,767, down 210 from the 1,977 counted in May 2012. It said the international rig count for May was 1,283, up 58 from the 1,225 counted in May 2012.

The worldwide rig count for May was 3,178, down 157 from the 3,335 counted in May 2012, Baker Hughes said.

Latin America and the Asia Pacific region showed increases in offshore rigs in May compared to a year earlier and decreases in land rigs. The Middle East region showed a substantial increase in land rigs in May compared to a year earlier and a decrease in offshore rigs. As firms have scaled back on land gas rigs in the U.S., they have increased overseas land rigs in some areas, reflecting higher natural gas prices overseas.

Baker Hughes’ count is based on the number of drilling rigs actively exploring for or developing oil or natural gas in the United States, Canada and international markets.

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