July 1 (Reuters) - U.S. energy firms this week cut the
number of oil and natural gas rigs for the first time in five
weeks even as crude production hit its highest in more than two
years in response to tight worldwide supply and high prices.
The U.S. oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future
output, fell by three to 750 in the week to July 1, energy
services firm Baker Hughes Co said in its closely
followed report on Friday. <RIG-USA-BHI> <RIG-OL-USA-BHI>
Despite the fall, Baker Hughes said that puts the total rig
count up 275, or 58%, over this time last year.
U.S. oil rigs rose one to 595 this week, their highest since
March 2020, while gas rigs fell four to 153, in the biggest
decline since August 2021.
Even though the total rig count was up for a record 23
months through June, weekly increases have mostly been in single
digits as many companies focus more on returning money to
investors and paying down debt rather than boosting output.
But with oil prices up about 43% so far this year after
soaring 55% in 2021 - and pressure from the government - a
growing number of energy firms said they plan to boost spending
for a second year in a row in 2022.
Oil production rose to 12.1 million barrels per day (bpd)
last week, its highest since April 2020, though the weekly
figures are volatile and considered less reliable than monthly
U.S. crude production was on track to rise from 11.2 million
bpd in 2021 to 11.9 million bpd in 2022 and 13.0 million bpd in
2023, according to official forecasts. That compares with a
record 12.3 million bpd in 2019.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino
Editing by Marguerita Choy)