Natural gas rigs
On July 22, 2016, the natural gas (UNG) (FCG) (BOIL) (GASL) (GASX) (UGAZ) (DGAZ) rig count was 88—a fall of one rig compared to the previous week. The number of active natural gas rigs has fallen by 128 in the past year. A year ago, there were 216 natural gas rigs. Notably, the natural gas rig count for the week ending July 22, 2016, was 94.5%—lower than its peak in 2008. The rig count reached a historic high of 1,606 in 2008.
The natural gas rig count for the week ending July 29 will be released by Baker Hughes (BHI) on July 29.
Crude oil rigs and natural gas production
On July 22, the US crude oil rig count was 371—14 higher than the previous week. The number of active crude oil rigs has fallen by 288 over the past year.
Despite the fall in the number of natural gas rigs since August 2008, natural gas production continued to rise. This can be explained by the fact that natural gas is an associated product of crude oil (USO) (OIIL) (UWTI) (USL) extraction. Over the past ten years, natural gas production has moved more in tandem with the crude oil rig count than with the natural gas rig count.
Rising crude oil prices after the subprime mortgage crisis kept the number of oil rigs rising until June 2014. With increasing crude oil extraction, the natural gas production also kept rising. Increasing rig efficiency also helped US natural gas companies produce more natural gas with fewer rigs.
Natural gas prices and stocks
This trend helped boost natural gas production and suppress natural gas prices despite a fall in the number of active natural gas rigs. In this way, the crude oil rig count is an important factor for natural gas–weighted stocks such as Comstock Resources (CRK), WPX Energy (WPX), Southwestern Energy (SWN), Gulfport Energy (GPOR), EXCO Resources (XCO), Rex Energy (REXX), and Antero Resources (AR).
Given the impact on production and energy prices, the rig counts also impact ETFs such as the ProShares Ultra Oil & Gas (DIG), the PowerShares DWA Energy Momentum ETF (PXI), the Vanguard Energy ETF (VDE), the iShares U.S. Energy ETF (IYE), and the Fidelity MSCI Energy Index ETF (FENY).
In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss natural gas inventories.