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US oil, gas rig count ticks up 2 on week to 623; biggest change in Bakken: Enverus

Highlights

Bakken Shale gains 4 rigs for total of 28

Bakken count at highest level since April 2020

Most large US basins changed little

The US oil and gas rig count grew by two week on week to 623, Enverus said Sept. 2, with the biggest change in the Williston Basin.

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The Williston, essentially the Bakken Shale of North Dakota/Montana, gained four rigs for a total of 28, putting the oil-prone play to its highest rig level in 16 months.

The basin last recorded a rig count of 28 for the week ended April 29, 2020, although that occurred as the rig count was swiftly dropping owing to tanking crude oil prices from the then-emerging pandemic. The Bakken began 2020 at 54 rigs.

After beginning 2020 at a relatively high level, the Bakken rig count largely stayed put until low oil demand from the pandemic caused crude prices to plunge and activity to rapidly follow suit.

Activity levels in the basin hadn't changed much in the last two months. Its rig count had bounced around in the 20s since June, and before that lingered in the teens since the start of 2021.

Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota's Oil and Gas division, called the Bakken a "sleeping giant" as drillers maintain capital discipline and do not react to rising crude prices.

"The pandemic put the industry to sleep, and it's struggling somewhat to wake up," Helms said during his monthly production update in mid-August.

At that time, the state had 10 active completion crews, which he expected to increase to 15 by year's end.

During the week ended Sept. 1, prices for Bakken oil, as for WTI, were up as Hurricane Ida knocked out the lion's share of the US Gulf of Mexico's 1.8 million b/d of production.

According to S&P Global Platts, Bakken Composite prices averaged $67.85/b for the week, up $3.07, while WTI averaged $68.49/b, up $2.91, and WTI Midland averaged $68.90/b, up $2.92.

For natural gas, prices at Henry Hub averaged $4.26/MMBtu, up 33 cents, while at Dominion South averaged $3.78/MMBtu, up 16 cents.

Permian sheds 3 rigs

The second-biggest change for the week just past came from the Permian Basin. The West Texas/New Mexico basin posted the second-largest change, shedding three rigs to leave a total of 260. The Permian is the largest producing region in the US with 4.65 million b/d of oil output and 12.5 Bcf/d of natural gas.

The Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas gained two rigs for a total 43, while the SCOOP-STACK play of Oklahoma was up by one for a total 29.

The Utica Shale, mostly sited in Ohio, lost a rig leaving 12 and breaking a four-week streak of unchanged rig activity.

The Marcellus Shale (32 rigs) largely in Pennsylvania, the Haynesville Shale (52 rigs) in East Texas/Northwest Louisiana and the DJ Basin (13 rigs) of Colorado were all unchanged on week.

In August, the domestic rig count averaged 616, up 4% from July. Both the July and June rig counts were also up 4% month on month.

Rig counts of the top producing basins