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Patterson-UTI's Onshore Rig Count Down 10% in One Month

Onshore drilling operator Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. (PTEN) lost 10% of its U.S. operating rigs between December and January, the company reported Wednesday.

During January, PTEN had an average of 198 rigs running in North America, down from 216 in December. The operator had 188 land rigs operating in the United States and 10 in Canada in January, versus December's count of 208 in the United States and eight in Canada.

PTEN's rig count has fallen steadily since late last year, as noted in Baker Hughes Inc.'s weekly rig count data and other services. Baker reported that 90 rigs were dropped in the United States as of last Friday, including 86 in Texas (see Shale DailyJan. 30).

In the final three months of 2014, PTEN was running on average 219 rigs, 210 in the United States and nine in Canada. The rig count at that time was flat from the end of September, with 209 rigs running in the U.S. onshore and 10 in Canada.

Average drilling rigs reported in PTEN's monthly announcements represent the average number of the rigs that were operating under a drilling contract.

PTEN, known for its high-tech Apex system, operates primarily mechanical/alternating current (AC)-powered rigs with walking systems and older rigs powered through silicon-controlled rectifiers (SCR) with walking systems. Activity is spread across oil and natural gas producing regions of the continental United States, Alaska, and Western and Northern Canada. PTEN also provides pressure pumping services.

Last October, PTEN said it expected to have an estimated 27% more in onshore horsepower capacity for its pressure pumping fleet services by mid-2015 as customers pushed for more intense hydraulic fracturing services (see Shale DailyOct. 23, 2014). CEO Andy Hendricks noted concerns at that time about an oversupply in the land rig market.

The drop in the rig count "shouldn't be a surprise to anyone not living under a rock," said Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. PTEN's mechanical/SCR rigs are "bearing the brunt of the pain so far, but even AC rigs won't be entirely immune during this industry down-cycle."

PTEN is scheduled to issue its fourth quarter results on Thursday.

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