Saturday, May 23, 2009

Natural Gas Rig Count Down One This Week

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- The number of rigs drilling for oil and natural gas in the U.S. fell this week as producers continued to curb drilling activity amid slumping energy prices.

The number of oil and gas rigs fell to 900, down 18 from the previous week, according to rig data from oil-field services company Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI). The number of gas rigs was 711, a drop of 17 rigs from last week, while the oil rig count fell to 180, a decrease of one rig. The number of miscellaneous rigs was unchanged at nine.

The number of gas rigs in use peaked at 1,606 in September.

Natural gas prices have plunged about 74% from summer highs amid robust production from U.S. onshore natural gas fields and slumping demand. Large industrial consumers have scaled back gas use to cut costs during the recession. In response to falling gas prices, producers such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. ( CHK) and Devon Energy Corp. (DVN) have slashed their spending plans and rig counts to reduce the flow of new gas supplies into the market.

Analysts anticipate that the sharp decline in natural gas drilling activity will eventually bring supply back in line with demand and help bolster gas prices.

Gas for June delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was recently down 7.3 cents, or 2.03%, at $3.53 a million British thermal units.

-By Christine Buurma, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-2061; christine.buurma@

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