The pullback in U.S. drilling activity showed no signs of letting up for the week ended Friday, as the domestic rig count fell for the fifth consecutive week, according to data released by Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI).
The United State dropped 11 rigs for the week -- three natural gas-directed units, eight oil-directed -- to fall to 898, the first time the U.S. tally has dipped below 900 since May.
"The United States is down 1% week/week in both total and Baker Hughes shale rig counts," noted NGI Markets Analyst Nate Harrison. "The U.S. total oil/gas rig count picture no longer appears to be just flattening. It is down 60 rigs (about 6%) since its most recent peak on July 28."
The week's declines included nine rigs in the onshore and two in the Gulf of Mexico, which ended at 18 rigs (21 a year ago). Five horizontal units and five vertical units packed up shop, as did one directional unit.
Canada added one rig week/week, with four oil-directed rigs returning to offset the loss of three gas-directed units. Canada now stands at 192 rigs, versus 154 rigs in the year-ago period.
The combined North American rig count ended the week at 1,090, down 10 week/week but up from 723 units running a year ago.
Among plays, the SCOOP (aka, the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province), showed some strength for the week, adding three rigs, Harrison noted, citing Shale Daily's analysis of the BHI data.
This came as Oklahoma overall showed the largest decline among states, dropping eight units week/week to end at 117 (76 in the year-ago period).
The Haynesville Shale in northern Louisiana and East Texas dropped three rigs week/week and now stands at 38 (21 a year-ago). The Marcellus and Utica shales, which saw some pipeline capacity additions for the week, held flat at 42 and 30 rigs, respectively.
North Dakota's Williston Basin dropped a rig, while the Permian Basin and the Denver Julesberg-Niobrara added a rig a piece, according to BHI.
Among states, Colorado added four rigs week/week, while Texas added three and Alaska added two.
Louisiana (down four), New Mexico (down two), North Dakota (down two) and Utah (down one) joined Oklahoma in dropping rigs for the week.
The declines in the U.S. rig count "are probably some combination of lesser rigs and smaller operators. Meanwhile demand for super spec rigs remains strong," according to NGI Director of Strategy and Research Patrick Rau.
Rau pointed to recent comments from Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. CEO Andy Hendricks.
During a conference call to discuss 3Q2017 results, Hendricks said, "Despite the softness in the industry rig count, demand for super-spec rigs remain strong. Of the 113 super-spec rigs in our fleet, 111 are currently contracted. We estimate the total industry supply of super-spec rigs in the US to be approximately 500 rigs, [with the] utilization for this class of rig exceeding 90%."
Meanwhile, drilling technology expert National Oilwell Varco Inc. sees uncertainty in 2018 but expects to find "pockets of demand emerging" even under a flattish commodity price scenario due to years of "underinvestment and cannibalization."
"In Q3, we had globally 2,100 rigs running, and I would tell you, I think they're being run harder than they've ever been run," CEO Clay Williams said during a 3Q2017 conference call. "And that's tough on drill pipe, that's tough on downhole tools. You've got rig operators that are pretty good at forestalling expenditures on spares for a quarter or two, but eventually the opportunity to cannibalize, to avoid buying spare parts, comes to an end."