Eagle Ford rig count down 70 percent in the last year

A drilling rig shines in the night near Three Rivers, Texas, on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. (Billy Calzada/San Antonio Express-News)

A drilling rig shines in the night near Three Rivers, Texas, on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. (Billy Calzada/San Antonio Express-News)

The number of drilling rigs working in the Eagle Ford Shale is a fraction of what it was a year ago, down 70 percent.

There are 47 drilling rigs still working in the South Texas field, which arcs from the border near Laredo toward the College Station area on the eastern edge of the field. There were 157 rigs working in the Eagle Ford during the same week last year, according to the Baker Hughes rig count.

The oilfield service company’s rig count had already been dropping even before crude oil prices started falling in late 2014. Drillers had been getting faster and more efficient, and more companies were moving to pad drilling — putting several wells on each site, which saved them the time of moving rigs between locations. Operators needed fewer drilling rigs to add wells.

But the recent dive in crude oil prices has accelerated the drop in the rig count.

So far this year, drillers have sidelined 29 rigs in the Eagle Ford.

The Texas rig count has dropped by 90 rigs since the beginning of the year, to 231 now.

It’s a measure that’s unlikely to improve soon — crude oil futures were trading below $33 per barrel Friday.

“The rig count isn’t going to do anything until price does something,” said Karr Ingham, a petroleum economist based in Amarillo.

And the amount of crude oil sitting in storage in the U.S. is at record amounts, which is acting as “an anchor on price,” Ingham said.

This week, the U.S. had 507.6 million barrels of oil in storage, which is “at historically high levels for this time of year,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

There were 434.1 million barrels of oil in storage in the U.S. the same week last year.

Oil production from U.S. shale fields, including the Eagle Ford, is expected to keep dropping this year, which should take some pressure off of storage.

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