Shale Drillers Add U.S. Rigs as Crude Stays Above $40

(Bloomberg) -- Oil explorers added more rigs in the U.S. as crude prices held above $40 a barrel, fueling driller optimism for a recovery.

Rigs targeting crude in the U.S. rose by 7 to 414, extending the biggest return to activity since crude prices first began falling two years ago. Producers haven’t pulled back drilling since the end of June. Natural gas rigs rose by 4 to 92 this week, bringing the total for oil and gas up by 11 to 508.

Halliburton Co., the world’s second-largest oil services provider, called the recent uptick in rig count "terrific," while adding that it wasn’t significant enough to alter market dynamics. Nonetheless, Halliburton’s customers remain optimistic as oil prices have generally held above $40 for much of the year.

"I would describe this as sorting through the wreckage of the worst downturn that we’ve ever seen," Jeff Miller, president of Halliburton Co., said this week at an investor conference in New York. "We are in the early innings of a recovery."

Prices rose this year partly on speculation that informal discussions among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may lead to action to stabilize the market. Investors continue to parse statements from OPEC members and Russia for signs of whether they’ll agree on measures that would limit production.

The oil price recovery from a 12-year-low in February has prompted producers to begin returning parked rigs to service after idling more than 1,000 rigs since the start of last year.

Crude output fell by 30,000 barrels a day to 8.46 million during the week ended Sept. 2, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday.