NUMBER OF OIL, GAS RIGS IN US GROWS BY 5 TO 744

NUMBER OF OIL, GAS RIGS IN US GROWS BY 5 TO 744

The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the United States rose by five, to 744, in the week ended Friday, but was below the year-earlier total of 772, Baker Hughes Inc. reported.

The number of rigs drilling on land rose by eight, to 629, while rigs working offshore declined by three to 101. The number of rigs active in inland waters stayed at 14.The biggest change in individual states occurred in Louisiana and Kansas, where the number of rigs fell by four, and in North Dakota, where the number increased by five, Baker Hughes reported. A total of 330 rigs were exploring for crude oil, up three from the previous week. The number of rigs searching for gas rose by one, to 395, while the number of miscellaneous drilling projects gained one to 19.

In Canada, the number of working rigs slipped by 41, to 171 from 280 a year earlier.

The weekly rig count reflects the number of rigs exploring for oil and gas, not those producing oil and gas.

Separately, Offshore Data Services said there were 142 rigs under contract in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as of Friday, up one from the previous week.

The utilization rate for rigs working in the Gulf, based on a total fleet of 175, was 81.1 percent.

The number of working rigs in European/Mediterranean waters was unchanged at 99 out of a total fleet of 104, a utilization rate of 95.2 percent.

The worldwide working rig count increased by two, to 526, out of a total fleet of 606, making the utilization rate 86.5 percent. Offshore Data said the worldwide utilization rate was the highest since February 1985.

"It tells us rig demand has greatly improved relative to supply. The market is finally coming into balance," said Tom Marsh, an Offshore Data drilling analyst.