A move by shale gas operators to use horizontal drilling techniques in liquids plays may be the impetus in setting a new all-time record for horizontal drilling. A total of 943 horizontal rigs were in operation during the week ending Nov. 5, according to statistics compiled by Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI).

Horizontal rigs, which when combined lateral techniques and hydraulic fracturing have led to a boom in U.S. shale gas production, jumped by 24 in the latest week. That eclipsed the previous horizontal rig count record of 929, which was recorded for the week ending Oct. 8, according to BHI’s North American Rotary Rig Count report.

In the year-ago period there were 436 horizontal drilling rigs in operation.

Overall, U.S. operators dropped 12 natural gas drilling rigs week/week, falling to 955 from 967. In the comparable period a year ago, a total of 734 gas rigs were operating in the United States.

Meanwhile, operators dropped 11 vertical rigs week/week. According to BHI statistics, there were 522 vertical rigs in operation Nov. 5, a figure that since July 23 has ranged from a high of 533 to a low of 506.

According to the report, 56% of the total U.S. rigs in operation in the latest week were horizontal, versus 31% that were vertical and 13% that were directional.

Oil-directed rigs showed the biggest domestic gains for the week, up to 718 from 696 a week before. In the comparable week of 2009 there were only 332 oil rigs in operation in the United States. Ten U.S. rigs were listed as “miscellaneous” in the BHI report.

Gas drilling accounted for 56.7% of the U.S. rigs in operation, versus 42.7% rigs that were directed to oil drilling. In Canada oil rigs accounted for 59% of the drilling, versus 41% for gas. BHI said a total 2,100 oil and gas rigs were in operation across North America in the latest report, which was down five from a week earlier but 789 more than in the comparable week of 2009 when 1,311 rigs were in operation.

By location, U.S. land rigs gained 10 rigs week/week to total 1,642, which was 613 higher than the 1,029 reported in the comparable period of 2009. The U.S. inland water rig count was flat week/week at 18; one rig was added in the Gulf of Mexico. Canada lost 16 rigs week/week to total 417, versus 233 in the year-ago period.

New Mexico, home to part of the oil and liquids-rich Permian Basin gained six rigs week/week to 73 from 67, versus 51 in the comparable week of 2009. Other states gaining rigs week/week were Texas, with four; Wyoming, with three; and one rig each added in Arkansas, California and Louisiana. Oklahoma lost four rigs for the week, and Pennsylvania’s rig count was down by two.

Texas continues to lead the total rig count, with 720 in operation in the latest week versus 407 a year ago. Louisiana claimed second place with a total of 186 rigs versus 169 year/year. Oklahoma has 142 rigs, which is nearly double the year-ago total of 78, while North Dakota’s count is at 138 from 54 a year earlier. Pennsylvania now has 99 rigs in operation, compared with 59 in the year-ago period, while New Mexico has 73 rigs operating, versus 51 a year ago.

Year/year Colorado’s rig count is up at 67 from 40, Wyoming is at 45 rigs from 39, California has 37 versus 24, Arkansas is at 36 from 40, and West Virginia gained two rigs to 24 from 22.

The U.S. rig count for October totaled 1,668 versus 1,655 in September and was 624 higher than in October 2009 when 1,044 rigs were operating, BHI said. Canada’s rig count for October was 398, compared with 347 in September and 244 in October 2009.

BHI reported that the international rig count for October totaled 1,099, which was down 21 from September but 116 higher than in October 2009. The international offshore rig count for October fell by 12 to 305, versus 317 in September and 267 in the year-ago period.

The worldwide rig count for October 2010 was 3,165, compared with 3,122 counted in September and 894 more than the 2,271 in October 2009.