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Rigs, How Do I Count Thee? Backwards, Mostly

How many drilling rigs are still running in the Barnett Shale? The exact number depends upon whom you ask, but the simplest answer is available from anyone: far fewer than there used to be.

RigData, which reports rig counts as well as numerous other industry data points, recently said the Barnett Shale rig count had fallen to zero. Meanwhile, Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) was reporting that five rigs were still hanging on in the Barnett; that was down from six one year prior (see Shale DailyApril 22).

Asked about the difference in Barnett tallies, RigData spokesman Greg Tsichlis reaffirmed "the big goose egg" for the Barnett and suggested a difference in rig count methodology and/or rig categorization could account for the difference from the BHI count.

BHI's Emil Ferenz, market intelligence resource manager, said a number of things could account for differences between the BHI count and RigData's. One of the most likely is a difference in the roster of counties that comprise what each considers to be at least some of the Barnett.

"...[T]here is no 'official' organization that defines what counties are included in which basins," Ferenz said. "Baker Hughes' county/basin alignments were established some time ago and have not changed to avoid confusion. If we did, it would make it difficult to explain increases and decreases in the rig count from week to week. The reader would not know whether the changes were due to a change in drilling activity or a change in counties included in a basin."

Other factors that can account for differences among rig counts include the timing of the counts, how an "active" rig is defined, and how cooperative operators are in providing data.

"The people that are selling bits to these rigs, they're the ones that actually do the counting on a week-to-week basis, and they're recording all the activity, especially during the drilling operation of what their rig is doing...how deep it's going," Ferenz said. "That information is collected in another database that we have. And that database is then synced with our rig count system on a two-hour basis, so you're constantly picking up information in the U.S.

"My suggestion, when I get these differences one to the other: pick a source and use that in looking for trends on anything else."

And in the case of the rig count in general, the trend has been decidedly down, as everyone knows.

In the BHI count released Friday (April 29), the tally of U.S. land rigs fell 10 to 391. One offshore rig left play for a net U.S. decline of 11 rigs. Three rigs (two oil and one gas) departed service in Canada, leaving 37 and making for a net North America decline of 14 units, with 457 rigs remaining.

In the United States, 11 oil rigs left, joined by one gas rig and offset by the return of one "miscellaneous" unit. Among the departed were two directionals, eight horizontals and one vertical unit.

Declines across plays were spread out and modest. The Barnett Shale was the only play to gain a rig, adding one unit to return to six actives, which was up two from the four rigs running one year ago, at least according to BHI.

Five years ago there were 81 rigs running in the Barnett, according to BHI data.

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