The U.S. natural gas rig count remained unchanged at 92 for the week ending Friday (March 12), while a small decline in the oil patch sent the overall domestic tally slightly lower, according to updated data from oilfield services provider Baker Hughes Co. (BKR).

rig count March 12

Including a one-rig decline in oil-directed rigs, the overall U.S. rig count fell to 402 as of Friday, versus 792 rigs running at this time last year, according to the BKR numbers, which are based partly on data provided by Enverus.

Land rigs remained unchanged overall week/week, while one rig exited in the Gulf of Mexico, dropping its total to 13, versus 19 a year ago. Horizontal and vertical rigs were unchanged, while one directional rig exited the patch.

The Canadian rig count saw a net decline of 25 week/week, split between 22 oil-directed rigs and three gas-directed. Canada ended the week with 116 rigs overall, down from 175 a year ago.

Broken down by play, the Utica Shale added two rigs during the week to grow its total to nine, flat with its year-ago count. The Cana Woodford added two rigs week/week, while the Permian Basin added one. One rig each departed from the Haynesville and Marcellus shales during the period, with one rig also exiting in the Williston Basin, according to BKR.

Broken down by state, Ohio saw a net gain of two rigs for the week, while Texas and West Virginia each added one. Pennsylvania dropped two rigs overall for the week, while New Mexico, North Dakota and Oklahoma each dropped one, BKR data show.

A week after extending production cuts, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Thursday raised its forecast for world oil demand in 2021, reflecting the cartel’s expectations for a stronger economic recovery in the second half of the year.

OPEC, in its Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) released Thursday, said it now expects global oil demand will grow by 5.9 million b/d this year to 96.3 million b/d. That marks an increase from its previous growth estimate of 5.8 million b/d.

Demand in 2020 contracted by 9.6 million b/d to 90.4 million b/d, according to OPEC estimates, the result of travel restrictions and business lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in the week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said it expects Brent oil prices to average between $65/bbl and $70 for March and April, with Brent forecast to then average $58 during the second half of 2021.

“EIA continues to expect downward crude oil price pressures will emerge in the coming months as the oil market becomes more balanced,” the agency said.

According to EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook, expectations for “a more balanced oil market reflect global oil supply surpassing oil demand during the second half of 2021. Although EIA expects inventories to fall by 1.2 million b/d in the first half of 2021, increases in global oil supply will contribute to inventories rising by almost 0.4 million b/d in the second half of 2021 and a mostly balanced market in 2022.”