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U.S. oil and gas rigs rise to highest since May -Baker Hughes

Oct 23 (Reuters) - U.S. energy firms this week added oil and natural gas rigs for a sixth week in a row for the first time since June 2018, with the industry expecting more momentum in drillers’ return to the wellpad as crude prices steady around $40 a barrel.

The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose five to 287 in the week to Oct. 23, its highest since May, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said in its closely followed report on Friday. RIG-USA-BHIRIG-OL-USA-BHIRIG-GS-USA-BHI

The total rig count fell to a record low of 244 during the week ended Aug. 14, while oil rigs alone fell to a 15-year low of 172 in the same week, according to Baker Hughes data going back to 1940.

The total rig count this week was 543 rigs, or 65%, below this time last year.

U.S. oil rigs rose six to 211 this week, their lowest since May, while gas rigs fell one to 73, according to Baker Hughes data.

U.S. crude futures have hovered around $40 a barrel over the past several months, recovering 115% from spring’s historic lows due to coronavirus demand destruction but are still down about 33% since the start of the year.

Halliburton, the largest U.S. hydraulic fracturing service provider, said this week it sees progressive improvement with an uptick in activity around unfinished wells.

North Dakota’s oil production rose about 12% in August as more wells and drilling rigs resumed production after a drop earlier this year, the state’s regulator said.

“Looking ahead ... we expect to see further horizontal activity momentum in the coming months, with about 40-50 more horizontal rigs potentially added through the first quarter of 2021,” analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co said this week. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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