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  • Writer's pictureTony Zelinski

Rig Count Ticks Down as Crude, Natural Gas Prices Plunge

Rigs counts tick down

In the week ended November 4, the number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States totaled 452, up by 2 compared with the prior week and a total of 574 a year ago. Including 115 other rigs drilling for natural gas and 1 rig listed as “miscellaneous,” there are a total of 568 working rigs in the country, down by 1 week over week and down 199 year over year. The data come from the latest Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI) North American Rotary Rig Count released on Friday.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil for December delivery traded down nearly 3.5% on Friday to settle at $43.12. Crude fell by about 2.3% for the week, on top of a 9.5% decline in the prior week. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported last Thursday that crude supplies had increased by 2.4 million barrels in the week ended November 4, and that gasoline supplies had dropped by 2.8 million barrels.

The unexpected election of Donald Trump to be the next U.S. President initially sent crude oil prices down, but their weak finish for the week is more likely due to continuing inventory and production growth. Both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and OPEC issued their monthly market reports last week, and both expect production to decrease this year as compared with last, but to rise next year.

Both the IEA and OPEC reported an inventory decline, but that tally does not take into account oil still at sea. Bloomberg reported last week that as many as 16 Aframax tankers, each with a load of around 600,000 barrels, are sailing in circles in the North Sea in what is known as floating storage.

Between 5 and 10 more tankers have reportedly been chartered to hold crude offshore of Singapore. These ships belong to the very-large crude carrier (VLCC) class and each could store up to 2 million barrels of crude. Jonathan Lee, CEO of London-based Tankers International, told Bloomberg, “The big question is whether it’s contango or whether it’s a lack of physical land-based storage” that’s caused the storage buildup in Northwest Europe. “It seems to be the latter at the moment,” Lee said.

The number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States is down by 122 year over year but up 2 week over week. The natural gas rig count decreased by 2 to a total of 115. The count for natural gas rigs is down by 78 year over year. Natural gas for December delivery closed the week at $2.63 per million BTUs, down 15 cents on the near-month contract compared with the prior week.

U.S. refineries ran at 87.1% of capacity, a week-over-week increase of about 369,000 barrels a day. Imports fell by about 1.6 million barrels a day, to around 7.4 million barrels a day in the week.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) did not release its weekly Commitment of Traders report due to the federal holiday last week. The report will be issued Monday, November 14.

Among the states, Texas added 6 rigs and Ohio added 1 rig. Alaska and North Dakota each lost 2 rigs and four states — New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah — lost 1 rig each.

In the Permian Basin of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico, the rig count now stands at 218, unchanged compared with the previous week’s count. The Eagle Ford Basin in south Texas has 38 rigs in operation, up 3 week over week, and the Williston Basin (Bakken) in North Dakota and Montana now has 35 working rigs, down 2 for the week.

Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE: EPD) lists a November 12 posted price of $39.86 per barrel for WTI and $41.31 a barrel for Eagle Ford crude. The price for WTI and Eagle Ford crudes dropped by $0.66 a barrel in the week.

The pump price of regular gasoline slipped by more than 4 cents a gallon week over week. Saturday morning’s average price in the United States was $2.178 a gallon, down $0.044 compared with $2.222 a week ago. The year-ago price was $2.200 a gallon.

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