April 28, 2017 / 5:17 PM / a year ago

U.S. drillers add oil rigs for 15th week, monthly pace slows -Baker Hughes

    April 28 (Reuters) - U.S. drillers added oil rigs for a 15th
week in a row, but the pace of those additions slowed in April
to the lowest in five months as crude prices fell below $50 a
barrel on doubts OPEC will continue to cut production enough to
reduce the global glut.
    Drillers added nine oil rigs in the week to April 28,
bringing the total count up to 697, the most since April 2015,
energy services firm Baker Hughes Inc         said on Friday.
    While that is more than double the same week a year ago when
there were only 332 active oil rigs, the pace of additions has
declined in April with 35 rigs deployed, the lowest since
November when 33 rigs were added. 
    That compares with the addition 60 oil rigs in March, the
most added in a month since December 2011.
   U.S. crude futures        traded above $49 a barrel on Friday
after dropping to a one-month low the previous day, amid doubts
the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
production cuts will restore balance to an oversupplied market,
especially as U.S. drillers keep producing more oil.      
    U.S. crude output C-OUT-T-EIA last week hit its highest
since August 2015 at 9.3 million barrels per day, according to
government data.       
     Despite recent price declines, analysts continued to
project U.S. energy firms would boost spending on drilling and
pump more oil and natural gas from shale fields in coming years
with energy prices expected to climb in future months.
    Futures for were fetching about $50 a barrel for the balance
of 2017           and around $51 for calendar 2018          .
    Rising crude prices helped Chevron Corp         and Exxon
Mobil Corp         easily beat analysts' quarterly profit
expectations on Friday, setting an upbeat tone as the two
companies press ahead with shale oil expansions.             
    Chevron said it will boost its Permian drilling rig count by
67 percent to 20 rigs by end of 2018.             
    Halliburton Co        , the world's second biggest oilfield
services provider, said this week that oil producers are
completing nearly as many wells as they are drilling.
    Oil producer Hess Corp         said this week it is
increasing spending this year, planning to have six drilling
rigs in North Dakota's Bakken shale by the end of the year,
helping to boost production well into 2018.             
    Analysts at Simmons & Co, energy specialists at U.S.
investment bank Piper Jaffray, this week forecast the total oil
and gas rig count would average 847 in 2017, 1,045 in 2018 and
1,178 in 2019. Most wells produce both oil and gas.
    That compares with an average of 768 so far in 2017, 509 in
2016 and 978 in 2015, according to Baker Hughes data.

 (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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