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U.S. Rig Count Rises as Oil Drilling Recovers, Gas Rigs Fall

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In its weekly release, Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. reported a rise in the U.S. rig count (number of rigs searching for oil and gas in the country).

This can be attributed to an increase in the tally of oil-directed rigs, partially offset by lower gas rig count.

Analysis of the Data

Weekly Summary: Rigs engaged in exploration and production in the U.S. totaled 1,928 for the week ended Nov 14, 2014. This was up by 3 from the previous week’s rig count and indicates the third increase in 4 weeks.

The current nationwide rig count is more than double the lowest level reached in recent years (876 in the week ended Jun 12, 2009) and is well above the prior-year level of 1,762. It rose to a 22-year high in 2008, peaking at 2,031 in the weeks ending Aug 29 and Sep 12.

Rigs engaged in land operations ascended by 4 to 1,863, offshore drilling was down by 1 to 52 rigs, while inland waters activity remained steady at 13 units.

Natural Gas Rig Count: The natural gas rig count – which last week reached a ten-month high – decreased for the first time in 5 weeks to 350 (a drop of 6 rigs from the previous week). As per the most recent report, the number of natural gas-directed rigs is down 57% from its recent peak of 811, achieved in 2012.

In fact, the current natural gas rig count remains 78% below its all-time high of 1,606 reached in late summer 2008. In the year-ago period, there were 370 active natural gas rigs.

Oil Rig Count: The oil rig count – that rocketed to 1,609 in Oct, the highest since Baker Hughes started breaking up oil and natural gas rig counts in 1987 – rose by 10 to 1,578. The current tally is way above the previous year’s rig count of 1,385 and has recovered strongly from a low of 179 in June 2009, rising almost 9 times.

Miscellaneous Rig Count: The miscellaneous rig count (primarily drilling for geothermal energy) at 0 was down by 1 from the previous week.

Rig Count by Type: The number of vertical drilling rigs fell by 6 to 354, while the horizontal/directional rig count (encompassing new drilling technology that has the ability to drill and extract gas from dense rock formations, also known as shale formations) was up 9 to 1,574. In particular, horizontal rig units increased by 7 from the last week’s level to reach an all-time high of 1,369.

Gulf of Mexico (GoM): The GoM rig count was down by 1 to 50. Oil drilling fell by 2 units to 37 rigs, while gas rigs increased from their week-ago level by 1 to 13.

Conclusion

Key Barometer of Drilling Activity: The Baker Hughes data, issued since 1944, acts as an important yardstick for energy service providers in gauging the overall business environment of the oil and gas industry.

An increase or decrease in the Baker Hughes rotary rig count heavily weighs on the demand for energy services – drilling, completion, production, etc. – provided by companies that include large-cap names like Halliburton Co. (HAL - Free Report) and Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB - Free Report) .

However, our preferred pick in this group is Emerge Energy Services L.P. (EMES - Free Report) . The Southlake, TX-based firm – carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) – has a solid secular growth story with potential to rise from the current level.




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