Drillers added 3 oil rigs in the week to Aug. 11 bringing the total count up to 768, the most since April 2015. General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report on Friday.
That compares with 396 active oil rigs during the same week a year ago. Drillers have added rigs in 56 of the past 63 weeks since the start of June 2016.
The rig count is an early indicator of future output.
U.S. production is expected to rise to 9.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2017 and a record 9.9 million bpd in 2018 from 8.9 million bpd in 2016, according to federal projections.
Those output gains have pressured crude prices lower in recent months, prompting several exploration and production (E&P) companies, including Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc , Continental Resources Inc and Denbury Resources Inc
Those companies and others had mapped out ambitious spending programs for 2017 when they expected U.S. oil prices to be higher than the near $48.50 per barrel range where they are currently trading.
Despite recently announced spending cuts, the E&Ps still plan to spend much more this year than last year.
Analysts at U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co said in a note this week its capital expenditure tracking showed 57 of the 64 E&Ps it follows planned to increase spending by an average of 49 percent in 2017 from 2016.
That expected 2017 spending increase followed an estimated 48 percent decline in 2016 and a 34 percent decline in 2015, Cowen said.
Cowen said it expects the total U.S. count, including both oil and natural gas rigs, to decline through 2017 and 2018. Most wells produce both oil and gas.
The current U.S. oil and gas rig count is 949, according to Baker Hughes. That compares with an average of 509 in 2016 and 978 in 2015.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)