Baker Hughes North America Rig Counts

Most charts are updated to 10th February 2017.

The Mexico charts are based on monthly data adjusted to weekly values. The time series for US charts begins in 1987; Canada and Mexico begin in 2000.

NARig Fig 1 Stacked area chart showing North America total rig count. The numbers are dominated by the USA, followed by Canada. Mexico is a small bit player on the drilling front. Peak drilling was reached on 27 January 2012 with a total of 2789 active rigs. The post oil price crash low was reached on 27 May 2016 when only 469 rigs remained active.


NARig Fig 2 Stacked area chart of US Total rig count showing the oil – gas split. Note how the US rig fleet increased from about 1000 units in 1987 to 2000 units in 2008. Since the year 2000, drilling activity is dominated by horizontal drilling and fracking, first for natural gas but then post-May 2009 there was a huge migration away from drilling gas towards drilling LTO plays. In fact, classifying shale wells is tricky since gas wells produce natural gas liquids (NGLs) and oil wells produce natural gas with a continuum between the two. While gas focussed drilling has all but ceased, gas produced from oil wells has taken US gas production to  record levels.

NARig Fig 3 Same data as above but plotted as unstacked line chart. The recent low in US oil focussed drilling was 330 rigs on 24 June 2016. The low in gas was 83 rigs reached on 19 August 2016. Summer 2016 may be viewed as the turning point in the US drilling industry post-2014 crash.

NARig Fig 4 US rig count broken out by sedimentary basin / petroleum systems play. The dominant plays are The Permian, Williston, Eagle Ford, Marcellus and Others. The other category includes conventional onshore and offshore drilling in the contiguous 48 states + Alaska. The recent revival in US drilling has been led by the Permian which is a prolific and low cost LTO play.

NARig Fig 5 Recent detail from the figure above plotted from April 2014. From the low point reached in May 2016 US drilling activity has risen steadily at a rate similar to the post-2008/9 crash.


NARig Fig 5 The peaks in Canadian drilling are centred on the winter months and the troughs in the summer months. That is because the ground freezes in winter allowing men and machines to move around more easily than in the summer when the tundra turns into bog. Canadian drilling shows the same slow down since 2014 as the US along with recent revival.

NARig Fig 6 Shows the same data as NARig Fig 5 but as an un-stacked line chart.


NARig Fig 7 The near term peak in Mexican drilling was 120 rigs in March 2013. By the time of the oil price crash at the end of 2014 drilling had already slowed to a cyclical low. Since then it has collapsed almost completely to 19 rigs in December 2016 and is showing little sign of revival. Mexico’s oil industry is run by State-owned Pemex and is clearly in dire straights. The country has moved recently to open exploration to IOCs.

NARig Fig 8 Same as NARig Fig 7 but plotted as un-stacked line. Mexico’s rig count is reported monthly and in order to plot this alongside the weekly US and Canadian data, the monthly figures have been rearranged into weeks.