Energy Economy

Rig Count Fell Last Week -- So Did Gasoline Prices

Oil drilling rig
Source: Thinkstock
In the week ended May 29, the number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States totaled 646, compared with 659 in the prior week and 1,536 a year ago. Including 229 other rigs mostly drilling for natural gas, there are a total of 875 working rigs in the country, down 10 week over week, and down 991 year over year. The data come from the latest Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI) North American Rotary Rig Count.

Last week marks a return to a double-digit drop in U.S. oil rigs after a drop of just one in the prior week. The big change occurred in Canada, where 20 rigs were added to the count last week, bringing the oil rig total to 44, compared with 105 at the same time last year. We are still trying to figure out what caused the bump to Canada’s rig count.

While the price of crude bounced to a low of around $56 a barrel last week, it closed the week at just over $60, right about where it began. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained about 1% for the month of May, well under the jump of about 15% in April.

The number of rigs drilling for oil in fell by 890 year over year and by 13 week over week. The natural gas rig count increased by three to a total of 225. The rig count for natural gas rigs is down by 101 year over year.

U.S. crude stockpiles fell by 2.8 million barrels last week, the fourth consecutive large decrease. Gasoline stockpiles also fell as refineries ran at more than 93% of capacity, up about 237,000 barrels a day from the previous week. Gasoline inventories remain well above the upper limit of the five-year range for this time of year.

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Hedge funds — under the Managed Money heading in the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commitments of Traders report — cut both their long and short positions last week. The funds cut long positions by about 2,500 contracts and short positions by about 3,000. The movement reflects changes as of the May 26 settlement date. Managed money holds 316,262 long positions, compared with 65,247 short positions.

Among the producers themselves, short positions outnumber longs, 371,713 to 197,758. The number of short positions last week fell by just 613 contracts, while longs fell by 3,621. Positions among swaps dealers show 368,646 shorts versus 196,383 longs. Swaps dealers decreased their long positions by a total of more than 1,500 contracts last week, while shorts dropped nearly 9,000 contracts.

The states losing rigs last week were Texas (four), California (three) and Arkansas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, down two each. North Dakota lost one rig last week. Colorado and Oklahoma each added two rigs and Alaska and New Mexico each added one rig last week. Rig counts in Texas, California, Colorado and Utah were unchanged.

In the Permian Basin of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico, the rig count fell by one to 232. The Eagle Ford Basin in south Texas added three rigs and reports that 110 are now working. And the Williston Basin (Bakken) in North Dakota and Montana has 77 working rigs, down one compared with the prior week.

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As of Friday, the posted price for Williston Basin sweet crude rose from $48.94 a barrel to $49.44, and Williston Basin sour also rose, from $44.33 to $44.83. Eagle Ford Light crude rose from $56.25 to $56.75, the same price as WTI.

The price of gasoline decreased slightly week over week. Saturday morning’s average price in the United States was $2.731 a gallon, down fractionally from $2.738 a week ago.