Rig utilization hits 22-month low in Gulf of Mexico

The utilization rate among mobile offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico tumbled to a 22-month low of 74.6% as six more units were idled this week, Houston-based ODS-Petrodata Group reported Friday.

HOUSTON, Aug. 24 -- The utilization rate among mobile offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico tumbled to a 22-month low of 74.6% as six more units were idled this week, Houston-based ODS-Petrodata Group reported Friday.

That's the lowest rig utilization in those waters since Oct. 15, 1999, officials said. It left 159 mobile drilling rigs under contract in the US portion of the gulf out of the 213 rigs now available for work there. The size of that available fleet also grew by one unit this week.

Although offshore drilling declined, total US activity increased with 1,251 rotary rigs actually drilling this week, a net gain of nine since last week and up from 996 during the same period a year ago, said officials of Baker Hughes Inc., Houston.

An additional 17 rotary land rigs spudded wells during the week, but that gain was partially offset by eight fewer offshore rigs drilling in US waters, including six fewer in the Gulf of Mexico, officials said. Baker Hughes counted 134 rotary rigs actually drilling in gulf waters at some time during the week, down from 151 a year ago.

Of the total rotary rigs working in the US, 1,035 were drilling for natural gas, up 11 from the previous week; 215 were drilling for oil, two fewer than last week; and one was unclassified. Among the working rigs, 297 were doing directional drilling and 87 were drilling horizontal wells.

Of the top producing states, New Mexico accounted for the biggest part of the increase, up four to 76 rotary rigs working this week. All of the other major producing states showed declines in their rig counts, with Texas and Louisiana down one each to 503 and 219 respectively. Oklahoma had 142 rigs working, two fewer than the previous week. And Wyoming registered the biggest loss, down three to 61.

There were 360 rotary rigs drilling in Canada this week, 12 more than the previous week and up from 339 a year ago.

Utilization rates among mobile offshore rigs also declined in European waters and worldwide this week, said ODS-Petrodata Group officials. In Europe, both the number of contracted rigs and total fleet size were down by one each, with 98 units under contract out of the 213 available, for 97% utilization.

Worldwide, the group reported a net loss of seven offshore rigs coming off jobs without new contracts. That dropped global utilization a full point to 85.8% with 93 mobile units idle out of the total 653 available for offshore drilling.

ODS-Petrodata also reported 248 offshore platform rigs under contract this week out of the 312 available worldwide, for 80% utilization.

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