U.S. energy firms this week added the most oil rigs in four years as crude prices held near their highest since 2014, prompting drillers to seek more profit.
The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose 22 in the week to Feb. 11, in it biggest hike since February 2018. At 635, the count was at its highest since April 2020, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said in its closely followed report on Friday.
Baker Hughes said the total rig count up 238, or 60%, over this time last year.
U.S. oil rigs rose 19 to 516 this week, their highest since April 2020, while gas rigs rose two to 118, their highest since January 2020.
U.S. crude futures traded around $92 per barrel, close to their highest since 2014.
With oil prices up about 23% so far this year after soaring 55% in 2021, the combined rig count has climbed for a record 18 months in a row.
However, analysts noted U.S. production in 2021 slipped as many energy firms focused more on returning money to investors rather than boosting output.
Production is still off the 2019 record high of 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd), and is expected to rise from 11.2 million bpd in 2021 to 12.0 million bpd in 2022 and 12.6 million bpd in 2023, according to government projections.
U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co said the independent exploration and production (E&P) companies it tracks plan to boost spending by about 25% in 2022 versus 2021 after increasing spending about 4% in 2021 versus 2020.
That follows a drop in capital expenditures of roughly 48% in 2020 and 12% in 2019.