(Reuters) – U.S. energy firms this week increased the number of oil rigs operating for a second week in a row with crude futures up more than 40 percent so far this year.
Companies added two oil rigs in the week to April 12, bringing the total count to 833, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report on Friday.
The U.S. rig count, an early indicator of future output, is higher than a year ago when 815 rigs were active.
The rig count fell for the past four months as independent exploration and production companies cut spending on new drilling as they focus on earnings growth instead of increased output.
Having slashed spending plans and run out of willing buyers for assets, some U.S. shale producers – Pioneer Natural Resources Co, one of the largest producers in the Permian basin, and Laredo Petroleum Inc – are turning to workforce cuts.
However, major oil companies are boosting their presence, particularly in the Permian, the largest U.S. shale oil field.
On Friday, Chevron Corp said it will buy Anadarko Petroleum Corp for $33 billion in a deal that doubles down on its bet on U.S. shale and propels the world’s fourth-largest oil major into the second position in crude production and the leading U.S. oil producer.
U.S. crude futures rose to a five-month high near $65 a barrel this week as involuntary supply cuts from Venezuela and Iran plus conflict in Libya supported perceptions of a tightening crude market, while upbeat Chinese economic data eased concerns about waning crude demand. [O/R]
Looking ahead, crude futures were trading around $64 a barrel for the balance of 2019 and $61 in calendar 2020.
U.S. crude production is expected to rise by 1.43 million barrels per day (bpd) to a record high 12.39 million bpd in 2019, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday, up from its previous forecast for a rise of 1.35 million bpd.
That would top the current all-time high of 10.96 million bpd in 2018.
U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co said this week that projections from the exploration and production (E&P) companies it tracks point to a percentage decline in the mid single digits in capital expenditures for drilling and completions in 2019 versus 2018.
Cowen said independent producers expect to spend about 11 percent less in 2019, while major oil companies plan to spend about 16 percent more.
In total, Cowen said all of the E&P companies it tracks that have reported will spend about $81.0 billion in 2019 versus $85.5 billion in 2018.
Year-to-date, the total number of oil and gas rigs active in the United States has averaged 1,041. That keeps the total count for 2019 on track to be the highest since 2014, which averaged 1,862 rigs. Most rigs produce both oil and gas.
Analysts at Simmons & Co, energy specialists at U.S. investment bank Piper Jaffray, however, forecast the average combined oil and gas rig count will slide from 1,032 in 2018 to 1,019 in 2019 before rising to 1,097 in 2020.
That is up from Simmons predictions last week of 1,016 in 2019 and 1,092 in 2020.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy