Woe in the oilfield: 213 companies have now declared bankruptcy

Leonardo Mendoza, of Key Energy Services, guilds a drill pipe from a well at an EnerVest oil field Tuesday, May 10, 2011, in rural Fayette County. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )
Leonardo Mendoza, of Key Energy Services, guides pipe from a well at an EnerVest oil field in 2011 in Fayette County. Key filed for bankruptcy on Monday. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

Fewer and fewer oil exploration and production companies are declaring bankruptcy.

But more oilfield service companies are.

So far this month, only one North American E&P firm filed for Chapter 11 protection, according to data released on Tuesday by the Dallas law firm Haynes & Boone. That’s down from two in September, three in August and four in July.

But it’s been an especially tough few months for service companies. As crude prices began crashing in 2014, drillers started idling rigs. That led to fewer jobs for the companies that make their money helping producers pump oil and gas. Moreover, when producers did hire service companies, they often forced them to heavily discount their rates.

Eight service companies filed this month. Seven filed last month, and eight again the month before. Almost 50 have filed in the last six months, half of the 108 over two years.

In total, 213 North American oil and gas companies have now filed for bankruptcy since the start of 2015, listing more than $85 billion in debt.

The most recent exploration firm: the private oil and gas company Mountain Divide, based in Montana, filed on Oct. 14, and listed $83 million in debt.

On the oilfield services side, Houston-based Key Energy Services filed on Monday, with more than $1 billion in debt.

And Basic Energy Services, headquartered in Fort Worth, said Monday it had reached an agreement with debt holders to file by Tuesday.