HOUSTON — Oil exploration shrank for a 14th straight week in U.S. fields amid weak crude prices and skepticism about a recovery in energy demand.
Drillers idled 10 oil rigs in onshore U.S. fields this week, bringing the total to 189, according to data released Friday by Baker Hughes Co. Despite this week’s rise in crude prices to a three-month high around $40 a barrel, they still are more than 35% below the January high.
In the Permian Basin, the oil deposit in West Texas and New Mexico that largely drove the past decade’s surge in U.S. crude output, drillers shut off five rigs, bringing the total to 132, the lowest since April 2016.
The rig tally, a widely watched data point that signals future production trends, dropped below 200 last week for the first time in more than a decade. Rather than drill new wells, some companies such as Continental Resources Inc. plan to restart output that was suspended as crude prices tanked earlier this year.
Meanwhile, natural gas drilling also slid. Explorers idled three gas rigs this week, pushing the nationwide total to 75, a record low in data going back to 1987, according to Baker Hughes.