Rig count falls to new lows, and oil rallies

HOUSTON — The number of active rigs fell to the lowest level in at least 70 years this week, as cheap crude oil continued to drive companies from the oil patch.

The number of rigs chasing crude oil fell by six to a total of 386, oil service company Baker Hughes said Friday. Natural gas drillers idled three rigs, bringing the total rig count to 94. Combined, the rig count fell by nine to 480.

The previous lowest combined count was 488 rigs on April 23, 1999. The records begin in the early 1940’s.

The oil rig count is now down 76 percent from its October 2014 peak of 1,609.

The decline in the rig count has contributed to shrinking U.S. production and a recent rally in crude oil.

On Friday, U.S. crude rallied 90 cents or about 2.4 percent to $38.74 per barrel. Over the past month, U.S. oil is up by 31.5 percent.