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Monthly Update: Rig Count

January '24, Latest Data
Published on 2/21/24

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Estimated Read Time: 2 minutes

U.S. CRUDE PRODUCTION

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates U.S. crude production hit an all-time high of 13.3 million barrels per day (b/d) in December. However, shut-ins related to cold weather likely dropped output to 12.6 million b/d in January. EIA expects production to return to nearly 13.3 million b/d in February, then decrease slightly through the middle of ’24 and not exceed the December ’23 record until February ’25.

CRUDE PRICES

Brent, the global crude benchmark, averaged $80.12 in January, down from $82.50 in January ’22. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for light sweet crude, averaged $74.15 in January, down from $78.12 in January the year prior. Attacks on vessels in the Red Sea boosted oil prices initially, but prices have since settled down. However, the attacks have increased transit times and shipping costs for oil, limiting the flexibility of the market to adjust to any future supply disruptions. 

DOMESTIC RIG COUNT

The Baker Hughes domestic rig count averaged 620 in January, down 152 from the same month in ’23. As noted before, more efficient drilling techniques, longer laterals (the horizontal portion of a well) and improved well productivity have helped the industry increase output. EIA estimates that in January ’24, average initial production per rig working in the Permian Basin was up 21.8 percent compared to January ’22 and 87.5 percent compared to January five years ago.

While the drop in the rig count has not impacted production, it has impacted the demand for oil field equipment and the jobs associated with building that equipment. In December ’14, there were 111,000 Houstonians employed in the manufacture of oilfield equipment and fabricated metal products (pipes, valves, and flanges). As of December ’23, there were only 72,600. 

NATURAL GAS

The Henry Hub spot price averaged $3.18 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in January. Spot prices were volatile, however, rising sharply to $13.20/MMBtu on Friday January 12 in anticipation of severely cold weather for the coming weekend. After the weekend, prices quickly fell. EIA expects mild weather for the remainder of the winter. Since February 2, the spot price at the Henry Hub has been $2.05/MMBtu or less. 

Weather-related disruptions caused U.S. dry natural gas production to fall from a record of 106 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in December to 102 Bcf/d in January. EIA forecasts U.S. natural gas production will gtradually rise and hit 105 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in March as winter ends. Production should stay close to that level for the rest of the year. EIA expects production will increase in ’25 to average more than 106 Bcf/d.

Prepared by Greater Houston Partnership Research Department

Patrick Jankowski, CERP
Chief Economist
Senior Vice President, Research
pjankowski@houston.org

Leta Wauson
Director, Research
lwauson@houston.org

Energy Key Economic Indicators
620

Active domestic rig count averaged 620 in January '24

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