Saturday, January 16, 2010

Natural Gas Rig Count Up to 1,248

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the U.S. climbed this week as producers brought rigs back to work in response to higher prices.

The number of oil and gas rigs climbed to 1,248, up 28 from the previous week, according to data released Friday by oil-field services company Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI). The number of gas rigs was 811, an increase of 30 from last week, while the oil-rig count was 425, a decrease of two. The number of miscellaneous rigs was unchanged at 12.

The number of gas rigs in use peaked at 1,606 in September 2008. Producers scaled back natural-gas drilling sharply over the past year in response to falling prices, but the rig count has stabilized in recent weeks as producers bet on colder winter weather and an economic recovery that would spark demand for the fuel.

Natural-gas prices have fallen by more than 60% from their summer 2008 highs above $13 a million British thermal units, but have recovered somewhat in recent weeks because of winter heating demand. But gas supplies remain ample despite cold temperatures. Total gas in U.S. storage for the week ended Jan. 8 was 2.852 trillion cubic feet--about 3.7% above last year's level and 4.4% above the five-year average.

Natural gas for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was recently up 10.8 cents, or 1.93%, at $5.696 a million British thermal units.

-By Christine Buurma, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2143;

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