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North American rig count increased in March

Year-over-year, there's more exploration and production activity in the United States and Canada.

By Daniel J. Graeber
North American rig count increased in March
The number of rigs reported in service in North America is showing gains from last year's slump, oilfield services company Baker Hughes reports. File photo by Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock

April 7 (UPI) -- Exploration and production activity in North America outpaced the rest of the world in terms of general gains, oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported.

The company offered its report on rig activity for March, noting global activity was on the rebound for 2017, but still lower year-over-year.

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Rig counts offer a loose indication of the level of confidence to invest in exploration and production activity in a particular region. Investments last year were curbed after crude oil prices dropped below $30 per barrel. Crude oil prices have been holding relatively stable in a range between $50 per barrel and $55 per barrel after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to limit production in an effort to balance the market.

That price reaction has brought some energy companies off the sidelines. Baker Hughes reported the average U.S. rig count up 6 percent from February to 789 and up 65 percent year-over-year. For Canada, the rig count of 253 for March was down 26 percent from the previous month, but higher than 88 recorded in March 2016.

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Higher activity could eventually lead to more production from the region, though there's a significant lag time between when rig counts evolve as a true indicator of output.

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported total domestic crude oil production for the week ending March 21 at 9.2 million barrels per day, up 52,000 barrels per day from the previous week and 191,000 barrels per day year-over-year.

The United States, the world's leading economy, imports most of its crude oil from Canada. For the week ending March 31, Canada exported 3.6 million barrels per day to the U.S. market, up 364,000 barrels per day from the previous week 405,000 barrels per day year-over-year.

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