135 oil companies are on edge of bankruptcy. So why is that good news?

First, the bad news: At least 135 oil and gas companies are still in deep trouble, according to Debtwire Analytics, a New York company that studies debt and predicts coming bankruptcies and restructuring.

On top of Debtwire’s newest list: Comstock Resources, the Frisco-based exploration company focused largely on natural gas. From 2009 to 2011, during the country’s shale boom, Comstock dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the development of its Cotton Valley shale fields in East Texas, among others, according to regulatory filings.

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Comstock now owes about $1.2 billion, according to Debtwire’s list, due in 2019 and 2020. The company has asked bond holders to defer interest until Comstock has repaid the notes, said Tim Hynes, head of research at Debtwire. If bond holders don’t approve the request, Comstock will file for bankruptcy, he said.

Comstock did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

(UPDATE: Comstock completed the debt exchange, which lowers its interest expenses by about $37 million a year. If Comstock shares reach $12.32 — they stand now at just over $7 — for 15 days in a row, the deal would eliminate roughly $460 million in long-term debt, leaving the company with about 60 percent of its original debt. Gary Guyton, Comstock’s director of planning and investor relations, said the company is putting one rig back to work imminently and another this winter. He said Comstock expects a 35 to 40 percent production growth next year.)

Other companies on Debtwire’s list include Houston-based W&T Offshore, which owes $1.4 billion; the private Houston exploration company Alta Mesa Holdings, with $875 million in debt; the Dallas shale explorer EXCO Resources, which owes more than $1.2 billion; and the large Oklahoma City-based shale operator Chesapeake Energy, with about $14 billion in outstanding notes.

Debtwire covers about 250 companies of all types. But right now about half the coverage is focused on the oil and gas industry, Hynes said, “just because it’s so distressed.”

Now, for some good news: Sure, a lot of the companies on Debtwire’s tracker are going to wind up in bankruptcy. But that list is already shorter than it was in January, when it stood at more than 180.

Oil prices have recovered from their lows around $26 and are now hovering under $50 a barrel, which has helped some companies stabilize, Hynes said. And, of course, more than 170 oil and gas companies have already gone bankrupt.

“Even if oil stays where it is now, we’re not going to see a ton of new companies in trouble,” he said. “They’re already in trouble. People know when they need to pay their debts back, so there isn’t going to be a wave of unexpected bankruptcies.”

Moreover, most of the companies on Debtwire’s list have already cut jobs and closed plants, Hynes said. The industry, he thinks, has hit bottom.

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