A sharp increase in natural gas-directed drilling saw the U.S. rig count rise eight units to 754 during the week ended Friday (March 17), according to the latest tally from Baker Hughes Co. (BKR).


Total natural gas-directed rigs increased by nine domestically, partially offset by a decline of one oil-directed unit. Land drilling increased by five, with total offshore rigs up three, including a two-rig increase in the Gulf of Mexico. Directional units increased by five overall, with total vertical rigs up three; horizontal drilling totals were unchanged for the week.

The combined 754 active U.S. rigs as of Friday compares with 663 rigs running in the year-earlier period, according to the BKR numbers, which are partly based on data from Enverus.

The Canadian rig count tumbled 16 units to end at 207 for the week, versus 176 in the year-earlier period. A decline of 17 oil-directed rigs there was partially offset by a one-rig increase in natural gas-directed drilling.

In BKR’s breakdown of changes by major drilling region, the Permian Basin saw a seven-rig gain for the week to finish with 350, versus 316 in the year-earlier period. The Marcellus Shale, meanwhile, added five rigs to raise its tally to 40, up from 36 a year ago. The Denver Julesburg-Niobrara added one rig to its total for the week.

On the other side of the ledger, the Utica Shale posted a four-rig decline, while the Eagle Ford Shale dropped two rigs from its total, according to BKR.

Counting by state, Texas added five rigs, while New Mexico added three. Pennsylvania and West Virginia each added two rigs, while Colorado and Oklahoma each added one. Declines occurred in Ohio (down three), Louisiana (down two) and Wyoming (down one), according to BKR.

Updated Energy Information Administration (EIA) data released earlier in the week showed American exploration and production (E&P) firms continuing to drive oil output at strong levels, though off from the highs of the year.

E&Ps generated 12.2 million b/d for the week ended March 10, even with the prior week, according to EIA’s Weekly Petroleum Status Report. The last two EIA prints, however, fell 100,000 b/d shy of the February average. The production level last month also matched the high point of both 2023 and the pandemic era that began in March 2020.