By Scott Disavino
March 3 (Reuters) – U.S. energy firms this week cut the number of oil and natural gas rigs operating for a third week in a row for the first time since August, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co (BKR.O) said in its closely followed report on Friday.
The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by four to 749 in the week to March 3, the lowest since June.
Despite this week’s rig decline, Baker Hughes said the total count was still up 99 rigs, or 15%, over this time last year.
U.S. oil rigs fell eight to 592 this week, their lowest since September, while gas rigs rose three to 154.
Energy traders noted that the total oil and gas rig count has declined for three months in a row due mostly to a drop in energy prices.
U.S. oil futures were down about 1% so far this year after gaining about 7% in 2022. U.S. gas futures , meanwhile, have plunged about 33% so far this year after rising about 20% last year.
U.S. oil major Chevron Corp (CVX.N) expanded its share buyback program and laid out plans to add 750,000 barrels of oil and gas per day to its U.S. production on gains from the country’s shale basins and the Gulf of Mexico.
Overall, U.S. crude production was on track to rise from 11.9 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2022 to 12.5 million bpd in 2023 and 12.7 million bpd in 2024, according to projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That compares with a record 12.3 million bpd in 2019.
In December, however, U.S. crude oil production fell to 12.10 million bpd, its lowest since August 2022, EIA data showed.
U.S. gas production was to rise on track to rise from a record 98.09 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) in 2022 to 100.27 bcfd in 2023 and 101.68 bcfd in 2024, according to federal energy data.
The independent exploration and production companies tracked by U.S. financial services firm TD Cowen were on track to boost spending by about 19% in 2023 versus 2022 after increasing spending about 40% in 2022 and 4% in 2021 versus 2020.