Shale shows restraint with drillers closing 2017 at standstill

By David Wethe on 12/29/2017
HOUSTON (Bloomberg) -- Oil explorers are closing out a year marked for its heightened pleas of austerity from investors with restraint.

The number of working rigs drilling for crude remained unchanged for a second straight week, at 747, according to Baker Hughes data reported Friday. The count is also unchanged from the end of November after explorers added just as many rigs as they laid off.

Nearly half of the energy executives responding to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said they expect the rig count six months from now to be at roughly the same level. The energy firms are expecting an average price for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark crude, to close out 2018 at $58.98/bbl, slightly down from today’s level.

“Oil prices appear to be high enough to support some additional drilling in 2018, but not high enough to significantly boost activity just yet," Michael Plante, a senior economist at the Dallas Fed, said this week in a statement. "Almost all respondents think West Texas Intermediate crude prices need to be more than $60 to see a substantial increase in the oil rig count.”

Oil output in the U.S. dropped last week for the first time in more than two months, falling by 35,000 bpd to 9.75 million, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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