Just one oil rig went dark this week, slowing the pace of oil patch losses that have been mounting in recent weeks as crude prices remain stuck in dismal territory.
The number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States has now fallen to 515, down more than two-thirds from its peak of 1,609 in October 2014 during the heydays of the domestic drilling renaissance.
Drillers idled another 13 rigs hunting for gas, bringing the total number down to 135, according to weekly data released by oil field services firm Baker Hughes.
The oil-soaked Permian Basin in West Texas, which had remained a favorite among U.S. exploration and production companies despite the prolonged crude slump, showed continued signs of weakness this week, with producers sidelining seven more rigs. Another sweet spot shale play, the Eagle Ford in South Texas, also saw a retreat, with the rig count tumbling by three. Losses were also seen in some gas-rich shale plays, including the Barnett, the DJ Niobrara, the Utica and the Williston.
Texas, the nation’s number one drilling destination, posted the steepest drop this week, losing 7 more rigs and bringing the state’s total rig count to 301. That’s down 61 percent from the same time last year. Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Wyoming also lost rigs.
The modest rig count declines fueled traders’ concerns that the world remains oversupplied with oil at a time when demand growth appears to be slowing. Fears of Iranian oil hitting the market spurred a dramatic sell-off in oil that pushed oil below $30 early Friday morning, and that decline continued following the rig count release. The price of oil fell to $29.22 Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.