U.S. energy firms this week added the most natural gas rigs in a week in over four years, leading to a rise in the combined oil and gas rig count for the first time in five weeks, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said on Friday.

The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose eight to 754 in the week to March 17. 

Baker Hughes said that puts the total rig count up 91 rigs, or 13.7%, over this time last year.

Oil rigs fell one to 589 this week, while gas rigs rose nine to 162.

U.S. oil futures were down nearly 17% so far this year after gaining about 7% in 2022. U.S. gas futures, meanwhile, have plunged about 47% so far this year after rising about 20% last year.

Energy traders said recent energy price declines have already caused several exploration and production companies to cut back on the number of rigs they use to drill for oil and gas for three months in a row from December-February.

This week's jump in gas rigs comes even as some energy firms have said in recent weeks that they would cut the number of rigs drilling for gas, especially in the Haynsesville shale in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

Despite lower rig counts seen in recent months, U.S. crude production was still on track to rise from 11.9 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) in 2022 to 12.4 MMbbl/d in 2023 and 12.6 million bpd in 2024, according to projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in March. That compares with a record 12.3 MMbbl/d in 2019.

Those oil production forecasts for 2023 and 2024, however, were smaller than EIA's projections in February.

U.S. gas production, meanwhile, was on track to rise from a record 98.09 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2022 to 100.67 Bcf/d in 2023 and 101.69 Bcf/d in 2024, according to federal energy data in March.

Those gas production forecasts for 2023 and 2024 were bigger than EIA's projections in February.