Unconventional oil and gas drilling within the 13 plays tracked by NGI‘s Shale Daily Unconventional Rig Count increased by one rig over the previous week to 890 rigs for the week ending Aug. 10. While some of the plays reporting increases or declines in activity were to be expected, others came as a bit of a surprise.

With crude oil economics still much more viable than those of dry gas, the liquids-rich Niobrara-Denver Julesburg Basin saw a 14% jump to 16 rigs from 14 rigs the previous week, while the Eagle Ford Shale added three rigs, or 1%, to 243 active rigs for the week ending Aug. 10.

More surprising was the action in the dry-gas Barnett Shale, which increased 5%, or two rigs, to 43 rigs for the week. There has been growing output by some producers from the Barnett “combo” play, which has high liquids content.

Of the plays that reported declines from week to week, an 11% decline to 31 rigs from 35 in the dry gas-rich Haynesville/Bossier was not turning many heads, but a two-rig decline in the Granite Wash to 76 came as a little more of a shock.

Overall for the week, 10 of the 13 plays reported no change or an increase in activity over the previous week. However, comparing the week ending Friday, Aug. 10 to the similar week in 2011 tells a different tale.

The current 890 active drilling rig count represents a 12% drop from the 1,008 rigs one year ago. In addition, nine of the 13 plays tracked currently have less drilling activity.