Drilling rig count falls for first time since September

Activity in the oil patch took its biggest step backward since June with seven drilling rigs removed from oil fields throughout the U.S.

The overall rig count fell this past week for the first time since September, although the resilient Permian Basin in West Texas still saw one rig added. The Permian now accounts for more than 51 percent of all the nation’s active rigs drilling for oil, according to weekly data collected by the Baker Hughes oilfield services firm.

The rare recent fall in the rig count could partly prove seasonal with the end of the holidays and a recent freeze that swept across most of the country, including much of Texas.

The overall rig count saw a net loss of six rigs, because the number of rigs pursuing natural gas jumped by one.

Texas saw a net loss of two rigs with one each lost in the East Texas’ Barnett Shale and in the Panhandle’s Granite Wash Basin. The only shale area to lose more than one rigs was Colorado’s DJ-Niobrara basin, which fell by two rigs.

The total rig count is now at 659 rigs, up from an all-time low of 404 rigs in May, according to Baker Hughes. Of the total tally, 522 of them are primarily drilling for oil.

After the Permian, the next most active area is Texas’ Eagle Ford shale with just 47 rigs.

The oil rig count is down 68 percent from its peak of 1,609 in October 2014, before oil prices began plummeting. The price of U.S. oil hit a low $26.21 on Feb. 11 before beginning to rebound. The U.S. benchmark for oil prices was hovering below $53 a barrel early Friday afternoon.

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