As the number of U.S. active rotary rigs remained stable this week, industry analysts are starting to weigh in on what we can expect from a rig count in the future. The answer is a mixed bag that signals a major shift in the oilfield equipment and services industry.
Unfortunately, Baker Hughes (BHI) says U.S. oil rigs have dropped once again this week.
The third largest oilfield equipment and services provider, behind industry leader Schlumberger (SLB - Get Report) and failed merger partner Halliburton (HAL - Get Report) , issued its weekly active rotary rig report counts Friday, noting the overall U.S. active rig count was unchanged at 404.
Oil rigs were down by 2, however, to 316, while the U.S. natural gas industry regained the 2 rigs it lost last week, bring its total to 87. Miscellaneous rigs were unchanged at 1.
U.S. rigs have declined by 471 from last year, to 875, with oil rigs down 330, gas rigs down 138, and miscellaneous rigs down 3.
The U.S. Offshore rig count is 24, unchanged from last week, and down 5 rigs year over year.
The past two weeks have represented a slight shift from the recent trend of consistent rig declines industry wide.
And if commodity prices continue to recover and the industry does start to head into a global recovery in capital expenditures by upstream oil and gas companies, oilfield equipment and services spending, which FBR Capital Markets analyst Thomas Curran suspects will be led by onshore North America, will clearly begin by early 2017.
But that might not necessarily be reflected in future rig counts.
"As part of that upturn, I think the Baker Hughes rig count is going to recover from its current level of 318 to 665 by late 2018," FBR Capital Markets analyst Thomas Curran said prior to Friday's release.
FBR's Curran suspects that the rig count's eventual upside peak will be much lower than the 1876 active-rig mark hit during the 2014 up-cycle.
The reason? The oilfield equipment and services industry analyst projects a cyclical rebound within a structurally contracting market.
Meaning he sees a need for fewer rigs at future levels of production.
"At any level of production, we'll need fewer rigs," Curran noted. "This is due to gains we've made in drilling efficiency and productivity per well."
If what Curran has predicted comes to fruition, the rig report itself may become less and less of an indicator of what lies ahead for the industry. Although, it already lags production by as much as few years.
Meanwhile, there continues to be concern on the global front, as uncertainty swirls around the situation in Nigeria and next week's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, looms.
In Nigeria, violence continues to intensify, as a newly emerged militant group, The Niger Delta Avengers, or NDA, have claimed that they have blown up a pipeline linked to Chevron's (CVX - Get Report) Escravos tank farm in the restive Niger Delta Region, according to Seaport Global Securities analyst Guy Baber.
It's been reported that all of Chevron's onshore operations in the Niger Delta have been shut down as a result of the attack, according to Baber, although the analyst noted CVX has not confirmed this.
"To put the potential impact in context, in 2015, CVX's net daily production from 27 fields in the Niger Delta averaged 65 kb/d of crude oil (~160 kb/d gross)," he noted Friday. "We will be looking to CVX for commentary on the true impact to production in the region from this incident."
--Claire Pool contributed to this report.