U.S. drillers added oil rigs for a 15th week in a row, but the pace of those additions slowed in April to the lowest in five months as crude prices fell below $50 a barrel on doubts OPEC will continue to cut production enough to reduce the global glut.
Drillers added nine oil rigs in the week to April 28, bringing the total count up to 697, the most since April 2015, energy services firm Baker Hughes Inc . (NYSE: BHI) said on April 28.
While that is more than double the same week a year ago when there were only 332 active oil rigs, the pace of additions has declined in April with 35 rigs deployed, the lowest since November when 33 rigs were added. That compares with the addition 60 oil rigs in March, the most added in a month since December 2011.
U.S. crude futures traded above $49 a barrel on April 28 after dropping to a one-month low the previous day amid doubts that the OPEC production cuts will restore balance to an oversupplied market, especially as U.S. drillers keep producing more oil.
U.S. crude output last week hit its highest since August 2015 at 9.3 million barrels per day, according to government data. Despite recent price declines, analysts continued to project U.S. energy firms would boost spending on drilling and pump more oil and natural gas from shale fields in coming years with energy prices expected to climb in future months.
Futures for were fetching about $50 a barrel for the balance of 2017 and around $51 for calendar 2018. Rising crude prices helped Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. easily beat analysts' quarterly profit expectations on Friday, setting an upbeat tone as the two companies press ahead with shale oil expansions.
Chevron said it will boost its Permian drilling rig count by 67% to 20 rigs by end of 2018. Halliburton Co., the world’s second biggest oilfield services provider, said this week that oil producers are completing nearly as many wells as they are drilling.
Oil producer Hess Corp. said this week it is increasing spending this year, planning to have six drilling rigs in North Dakota's Bakken shale by the end of the year, helping to boost production well into 2018.
Analysts at Simmons & Co, energy specialists at U.S. investment bank Piper Jaffray, this week forecast the total oil and gas rig count would average 847 in 2017, 1,045 in 2018 and 1,178 in 2019. Most wells produce both oil and gas. That compares with an average of 768 so far in 2017, 509 in 2016 and 978 in 2015, according to Baker Hughes data.