Fearing Economic ‘Slowdown,’ Oil Drillers Just Shut Down The Most Rigs In Any Week Since 2021

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Oil drillers in the U.S. cut the number of active rigs by the largest weekly amount in nearly two years, as an ongoing slowdown in the industry continues, Reuters reported on Friday.

The number of active oil and gas rigs declined by 15 this week to 696, the largest single-week drop since September 2021 and bringing the number of active rigs to its lowest since April 2022, the outlet reported, citing data from energy analytics and data firm Baker Hughes. This week’s plunge is the fifth straight week of declines in the number of active drill sites — May saw the largest monthly slide in oil rigs since June 2020 — bringing the total number of shutdowns to 59 since the slide began.  (RELATED: Biden Admin Closes Off More US Lands To Oil And Gas Drilling)

Compared to the same time last year, the overall number of rigs is down 4%, Baker Hughes reported. Drillers have been pulling back in recent weeks thanks in part to declining oil prices due to investors’ fears of an upcoming economic downturn , combined with higher input costs, Reuters reported.

Prices have kept down in part due to a “slowdown in industrial demand, certainly on the Western side of the equation,” Doug King, CEO of British commodities trading firm RCMA Capital, told The Wall Street Journal.

MIDLAND, TEXAS – MARCH 12: Natural gas is flared off during an oil drilling operation in the Permian Basin oil field on March 12, 2022 in Midland, Texas. The Permian Basin is the largest petroleum-producing basin in the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

All rigs shut down this week were oil rigs, bringing the total number of active oil rigs down to 555, while the number of active gas rigs held steady at 137, Reuters reported.

“Many (gas) drillers are eagerly eyeing the LNG (liquefied natural gas) demand boom expected over the next 30 months and are reluctant to cut productive capacity,” analysts at energy consulting firm EBW Analytics wrote in a note this week, according to Reuters.

The Biden administration on Friday imposed a 20-year pause on all new drilling within a 10 mile radius of a historical Native American site in New Mexico, although it allowed existing rigs to remain. After oil and gas companies posted record breaking profits in 2022 — which drew repeated criticism from Biden — as prices soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some industry analysts expected larger energy firms to use these profits to buy out smaller firms, bolstering production for a future boom, even as they shut down rigs in the interim.

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