The U.S. natural gas rig count climbed three units to 88 for the week ending Friday (Jan. 22), helping to extend a trend of steady growth in domestic drilling activity going back to last year, the latest figures from oilfield services provider Baker Hughes Co. (BKR) show.

rig count Jan. 22

Including the addition of two oil-directed rigs, the combined U.S. rig count rose five units to 378, still 416 rigs behind the 794 rigs active at this time last year, according to the BKR data. The figures are based in part on data provided by Enverus.

Still, the domestic drilling total has climbed steadily over the past several months after dropping to 244 last August.

Domestic land drilling increased by five units for the most recent week, while the Gulf of Mexico tally remained unchanged at 16. Horizontal units increased by six, offsetting a decline of one vertical unit.

In Canada, 11 rigs were added for the week, including six oil-directed and five natural gas-directed units. The Canadian rig count finished the week down 72 units from 244 units active a year ago.

The North American rig count ended the week at 550, down from 1,038 at this time last year.

There were no major changes among plays during the week, according to BKR. The Permian Basin saw a net decline of one rig week/week to fall to 188, down from 405 a year ago. On the other side of the ledger, several plays increased their respective totals by one rig for the week, including the Barnett, Haynesville and Utica shales, as well as the Williston Basin.

Broken down by state, New Mexico saw a net decline of five rigs, while Texas added six to its total. Alaska added two rigs, while North Dakota, Ohio and West Virginia each added one.

The number of North American oil and natural gas producers filing for bankruptcy protection continued to slow in December, according to updated data published recently by Haynes and Boone LLP.

The law firm’s latest Oil Patch Bankruptcy Monitor showed that since the oil and gas industry began contracting in late 2014, 2020 was the worst year for bankruptcies. Forty-six exploration and production  companies representing around $53 billion in total debt filed for bankruptcy protection last year. This is around 30% of the total debt represented in bankruptcy filings since 2015, the first year Haynes and Boone began tracking data.

Meanwhile, oilfield equipment expert NOV Inc. warned Tuesday that fourth quarter earnings would be below guidance as stronger North American activity levels were not enough to overcome a softer international market.

“While rising North American activity levels drove higher revenues in the U.S. for our shorter-cycle businesses, international markets and demand for capital equipment remained soft through year-end, which led to fourth quarter results that were below our expectations for our three segments,” said CEO Clay Williams.