Shale drilling decreases amid U.S. oil industry consolidation, shareholder returns

(Bloomberg) – Drilling in the U.S. shale patch dropped to the lowest level in almost two-and-a-half years as operators vow to make good on promises to investors for subdued production growth this year.

The number of U.S. rigs drilling for oil fell by four to 492, the lowest since January 2022, according to data released Friday by Baker Hughes Co.. The rig count is down 1.6% so far this year, while oil prices are up 5.6% in the same period.

After fewer rigs delivered better than expected last year, U.S. shale executives are now slowing activity amid shrinking inventory of top-tier drilling locations, industry consolidation and promises to return profits to shareholders. Total spending by North American explorers is forecast to drop 1% this year, according to Barclays PLC.

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