U.S. energy firms this week reduced the number of oil rigs operating for a seventh week in a row as producers follow through on plans to cut spending on new drilling this year.
Drillers cut three oil rigs in the week to Oct. 4, bringing down the total count to 710, the lowest since May 2017, Baker Hughes, a GE company, said in its weekly report. In the same week a year ago, there were 861 active rigs.
The oil rig count, an early indicator of future output, has declined over a record 10 months as independent E&P companies cut spending on new drilling as they focus more on earnings growth instead of increased output.
That decline in the rig count helped cut U.S. crude output in July to 11.81 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d), its third monthly decline from a record high of 12.12 MMbbl/d in April, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration monthly report released on Sept. 30.
U.S. crude futures, meanwhile, traded around $52 per barrel on Oct. 4, putting the contract on track for its biggest weekly loss since mid-July due to financial market concerns the slowing economy was on the brink of a recession amid lingering trade tensions.
Looking ahead, U.S. crude futures were trading around $52 per barrel for the balance of 2019 and $51 in calendar 2020.
U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co. this week said that projections from the E&P companies it tracks point to a 5% decline in capex for drilling and completions in 2019 versus 2018.
Cowen said independent producers expect to spend about 11% less in 2019, while major oil companies plan to spend about 16% more.
In total, Cowen said all of the E&P companies it tracks that have reported plan to spend about $80.5 billion in 2019 versus $84.6 billion in 2018.
Year-to-date, the total number of oil and gas rigs active in the United States has averaged 981. Most rigs produce both oil and gas.
The number of U.S. gas rigs, meanwhile, fell to 144, the least since January 2017.
Analysts at Simmons & Co, energy specialists at U.S. investment bank Piper Jaffray, forecast the average combined oil and gas rig count will slide from a four-year high of 1,032 in 2018 to 951 in 2019 and 906 in 2020 before rising to 957 in 2021.
That is the same as Simmons forecasts since late September.
Houston-based WaterBridge Resources agreed in late February to acquire Centennial Resource Development’s Permian water assets in a $225 million transaction that was expected to close at the end of the first quarter.
Devon Energy had been actively shopping the Permian Basin assets, and others in the Rockies, the past several months.
The Alta Mesa transaction represents the sixth acquisition by partnerships between Tom Ward-led Mach Resources and private equity firm Bayou City Energy Management.