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Rig Count Plunges to New Low of 649

March 13, 1992

HOUSTON (AP) _ The number of working oil and gas rigs in the nation hit a record low 649 this week when it lost 11 rigs, Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday.

A year ago, the count was 980. Last week, it had dropped by 13 rigs to 660.

″It’s not surprising, really,″ said Ike Kerridge, who keeps the count for Baker Hughes. ″The seasonal decline usually bottoms out in late March or early April. On top of that is the static from the wet ground problem. It would not surprise me to see it bounce back next week.″

The latest tabulation is beneath the previous low of 653 recorded Jan. 31. Since then, the count had made an uneven recovery.

Depressed oil and gas prices and a shift in exploration by domestic companies to foreign countries has been blamed for the decline in recent months.

″There’s no question this is the weakest year on record,″ Kerridge said. ″We’re down 31.5 percent since last year″

Kerridge said he expected the count to begin rising in April, but said there were no guarantees.

″One year, in 1986, it didn’t start up until July,″ he said.

The weekly count is the widely watched index of drilling activity and represents the number of rigs actively exploring for petroleum and natural gas, not those producing oil and gas. Baker Hughes has kept track of the count since 1940.

When the oil boom went bust, the count plummeted to a then-record low of 663 in the summer of 1986. The tally, fueled by the oil boom, peaked at 4,500 in December 1981.

Of the rigs working this week, 384 were handling oil, 249 were gas and 16 were listed as miscellaneous.

Texas led the major oil and gas producing states in losses, posting a drop of seven rigs. Kansas lost five rigs for the week, while Pennsylvania and Michigan each dropped three. Of other states showing a decrease for the week, Ohio, Colorado and New Mexico each lost two rigs, while North Dakota lost one.

Of the states posting increases for the week, Oklahoma and Louisiana each added three rigs, while California added two. The count for Wyoming was unchanged for the week.

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