Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. energy firms this week added the
most oil rigs in four years as crude prices held near their
highest since 2014, prompting drillers to seek more profit.
The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future
output, rose 22 in the week to Feb. 11, in it biggest hike since
February 2018. At 635, the count was now at its highest since
April 2020, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said in
its closely followed report on Friday. <RIG-USA-BHI>
Baker Hughes said the total rig count was up 238, or 60%,
over this time last year.
U.S. oil rigs rose 19 to 516 this week, their highest since
April 2020, while gas rigs rose two to 118, their highest since
More than half of U.S. oil rigs are in the Permian shale in
West Texas and eastern New Mexico where total units this week
jumped by seven to 301, the most since April 2020. That was the
biggest weekly increase in the basin since January 2021.
U.S. crude futures traded around $92 per barrel,
close to their highest since 2014.
With oil prices up about 23% so far this year after soaring
55% in 2021, the combined rig count has climbed for a record 18
months in a row.
However, analysts noted U.S. production in 2021 slipped as
many energy firms focused more on returning money to investors
rather than boosting output.
Production is still off the 2019 record high of 12.3 million
barrels per day (bpd), and is expected to rise from 11.2 million
bpd in 2021 to 12.0 million bpd in 2022 and 12.6 million bpd in
2023, according to government projections.
U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co said the independent
exploration and production (E&P) companies it tracks plan to
boost spending by about 25% in 2022 versus 2021 after increasing
spending about 4% in 2021 versus 2020.
That follows a drop in capital expenditures of roughly 48%
in 2020 and 12% in 2019.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino
Editing by Marguerita Choy)