Houston — The US oil and natural gas rig count dropped by 20 to 840 during the last week of 2019, according to rig data provider Enverus.
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The entire decrease came from rigs chasing crude oil. These numbered 673 as of December 25 - down by 22 from the previous week. In contrast, 162 rigs were hunting for gas, up two on the week.
The total rig count also reached a recent low of 840 during the first week in December 2019. With that exception, this week's rig count is the lowest since early February 2017.
Year-end slowdowns are usual between mid-November and late December or even the first days in January. The current rig count has fallen 3.5% from 870 in mid-November, although it bounced around within that range.
"Just a short week and some missed reports, happens every year," Enverus director of content Bob Williams said. "If it doesn't bounce back by a comparable amount next week [or the week after], I'll be surprised."
On Friday, the Dallas Federal Reserve found in its latest quarterly survey that US oil and gas executives expect WTI prices to average $58.54/b by the end of 2020. But most of the 170 US oil and gas and oilfield service executives polled also plan to base capital spending on 2020 prices trading roughly 8% lower throughout next year.
BIGGEST WEEKLY CHANGE SEEN IN PERMIAN
The Permian Basin registered the biggest week-on-week change in rigs - down by nine to 395. The West Texas/New Mexico play is the largest domestic crude producer with an estimated 4.69 million b/d of oil and just shy of 17 Bcf/d of gas.
And, the US Energy Information Administration projected those figures could rise by 48,000 b/d of oil and 213,000 Mcf/d of gas in January.
In contrast, the Eagle Ford Shale gained four rigs to 81. The South Texas play is one of the US' largest and most popular drilling areas, with 1.3 million b/d of oil production and 6.8 Bcf/d of gas output. But EIA predicts output could slip by about 9,000 b/d and 69,000 Mcf/d next month.
In addition, the Denver-Julesburg Basin, a smaller Colorado play, lost five rigs on the week, leaving 18.
But the Williston Basin of North Dakota and Montana gained three rigs, for a total 53. The Williston currently produces 1.5 million b/d, although little change is expected in January - one of the area's coldest months.
Three plays posted no week-on-week rig change: the Haynesville Shale, a gas play found in East Texas and Northwest Louisiana, stayed at 47; the SCOOP-STACK in Oklahoma remained at 41 and the Utica Shale found mostly in Ohio, was steady at 12.
Also, the largely Pennsylvania-sited Marcellus Shale gained two rigs to 39. Specifically, the Dry Marcellus and Wet Marcellus each gained one rig, for respective totals of 19 and 20 rigs.
PERMIT APPROVALS ALSO DOWN
Permit approvals also decreased, dropping by 442 compared to last week for a domestic total of 271.
The biggest change was in the Permian Basin, down 94 to 125. Other large decreases were in the Eagle Ford, down 40 to 21; the Haynesville, down 36 to zero, and the Dry Marcellus, down 17 to seven.
But the DJ Basin gained 41 permits, making a total of 48.
Oil prices held up well this week, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates. WTI averaged $60.81/b, up 54 cents, while WTI Midland was even higher at $61.55/b, up 22 cents. The Bakken Composite price averaged $55.20/b, up 64 cents.
But gas prices slipped a bit. Henry Hub prices averaged $2.18/MMBtu, down 10 cents, while at Dominion South the average was $1.85/MMBtu, down 7 cents.
-- Starr Spencer, firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Edited by Gary Gentile, email@example.com