U.S. natural gas drilling activity eased lower during the week ended Friday (Sept. 24), while ongoing recovery in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) helped lift the overall domestic rig count higher for the period, according to updated numbers from Baker Hughes Co. (BKR).

rig count Sept 24

Ten oil-directed rigs were added in the United States for the week, offsetting a one-rig decline in natural gas drilling. The combined U.S. rig count finished at 521 as of Friday, up from 71 a year earlier. 

GOM activity increased by four units for the period, with four rigs added on land and one in inland waters, according to the BKR figures, which are based partly on data from Enverus. The GOM rig count had dropped to zero in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ida, which made landfall over Louisiana late last month.

The 521 active U.S. rigs as of Friday compares with 261 rigs running in the year-ago period. Five directional units were added week/week, along with three directional units and one vertical.

The Canadian rig count rose eight units to reach 162 as of Friday, up from 71 a year earlier. Canada added six natural gas-directed rigs, along with one oil-directed rig and one miscellaneous unit.

Broken down by major play, week/week changes were mixed. The Permian Basin added one rig for the period, as did the Arkoma Woodford, the Cana Woodford and the Eagle Ford Shale. The Granite Wash and the Marcellus Shale each dropped one rig from their respective totals.

In the state-by-state breakdown, Louisiana and Oklahoma each added four rigs, while Texas saw its count climb by three. Utah saw a net decline of one rig for the week.

The latest U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) inventory report showed domestic petroleum demand and production increasing notably in the week-earlier period, as the GOM energy complex recuperated from the havoc imposed by Ida.

EIA’s Weekly Petroleum Status Report, released Wednesday, showed production climbed to 10.6 million b/d for the week ended Sept. 17, up from 10.1 million b/d a week earlier, when output capabilities were still largely hampered by flooding and wind damage as well as power outages caused by Ida.

Meanwhile, new data from a top energy industry group showed upstream oil and natural gas employment in Texas expanding in August, with monthly job gains since last September —  the low point — outnumbering declines.

The latest Texas Workforce Commission data suggests that upstream employment “expanded by 2,800 jobs in August,” the Texas Oil & Gas Association said. Compared with August 2020, jobs rose 12.4%, or by 19,700.