June 29, 2012 / 5:30 PM / in 5 years

US natgas rig count at 13-year low - Baker Hughes

NEW YORK, June 29 (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States fell to a record 13-year low this week, oil services firm Baker Hughes said in its weekly report on Friday.

Low prices are behind the drop in the gas-directed rig count, which fell for the sixth straight week. It was down by 7 to 534 in the week to June 29, data from the Houston-based firm showed.

The gas rig count is about 43 percent lower than the peak it reached in October last year at 936 rigs. There were 38.9 percent fewer rigs drilling for gas this week compared with a year earlier. (Graphic: r.reuters.com/dyb62s)

The months-long drop affirms expectations that producers may be curbing dry gas production.

However, monthly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed natural gas output in the Lower 48 states rose for the first time in three months in April.

Wet gas output in the U.S. contiguous states was at 72.48 billion cubic feet per day in April, up 0.56 bcf per day from the upwardly revised March output of 71.92 bcf daily, according to the data arm of the U.S. Department of Energy.

OUTPUT STILL HIGH

Dry gas drilling has become uneconomical at current prices, but energy companies continue to produce associated gas from oil wells and drill gas wells to hold their leases, which has increased supply in the market.

Rising output from shale has also made it difficult to slow overall dry gas production.

Horizontal rigs, the type that are used to coax oil and gas from unconventional shale reserves, rose for the second straight time, up 6 to 1,171 this week, according to Baker Hughes data. This is still lower than the all-time high of 1,193 recorded in the week to May 18.

Still, the U.S. Department of Energy expects natural gas production to flatten compared to the pace of growth it exhibited in the past few years.

OIL DRILLING HITS NEW HIGH

The number of oil-drilling rigs was steady at 1,421, a 25-year high, Baker Hughes data showed.

There were 41.3 percent more rigs drilling for oil this week, compared to last year when 1,006 oil-drilling rigs were operational. (Reporting by Selam Gebrekidan and Joseph Silha; Editing by David Gregorio)

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