Energy services company Baker Hughes reported last Friday that US natural gas firms have added the most rigs in a week since December 2018.

The data shows that the oil and gas rig count rose by eight to 754 in the week commencing 13 March. From the week beginning 6 March to last week, the number of gas rigs rose by nine to 162 while oil rigs fell one to 589.

The total increase in rigs from this time last year is 91, or a jump of 13.7%. Last week was the first in over five weeks which saw a rise in the number of oil and gas rigs.

The rig count was 321 lower than the rig count at the beginning of 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The news comes after some energy firms announced in recent weeks that they would cut the number of rigs drilling for gas including Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy and Comstock Resources.

US natural gas policy

According to government statistics US liquefied natural gas exports averaged around 12 billion cubic feet per day in 2023, up 14% from last year. The US government expects exports to increase by an additional 5% in 2024.

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The raise in rig counts comes as the United States seeks to sustain their liquified natural gas exports to displace Russian fuel. Oil and gas rig count is an early indicator of future output, with the Biden administration appearing to be set on greater oil and gas investment.

The Biden administration held talks with global energy companies and foreign officials at the beginning of the month seeking to set standards for certified natural gas. This form of fuel is marketed by producers as ‘green’ due to reduced greenhouse gas emissions associated with getting it to market.

The US has become the world’s largest natural gas producer in recent years and the second-largest liquified natural gas exporter, after Qatar. However, questions remain as to the government’s commitment to minimising climate change, with the production and sale of oil and gas still more harmful than renewable power.

Brad Crabtree, an assistant secretary for the US Department of Energy, said of US natural gas policy during this month’s talks: “It’s a big priority for us to make sure that the role we’re playing in […] supplying natural gas to our allies at a time of great energy security need is done in a way that is climate responsible”.