July 19 (Reuters) - U.S. energy firms this week reduced the number of oil rigs operating for a third week in a row as drillers follow through on plans to cut spending with oil prices declining amid a global supply glut.
Drillers cut five oil rigs in the week to July 19, bringing the total count down to 779, the lowest since February 2018, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report on Friday. RIG-OL-USA-BHI
That compares with 858 rigs operating during the same week a year ago.
The rig count, an early indicator of future output, has declined over the past seven months as independent exploration and production companies cut spending on new drilling as they focus more on earnings growth instead of increased output.
The world’s top oilfield services company Schlumberger NV said on Friday that spending in onland drilling in North America was tracking expectations of a 10% decline this year.
U.S. oil output from seven major shale formations is expected to rise by about 49,000 barrels per day (bpd) in August to a record 8.55 million bpd, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its monthly drilling productivity report on Monday.
For the year, EIA projected total U.S. crude output will rise to 12.36 million bpd in 2019, topping the annual record of 10.96 million bpd set in 2018.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday it does not expect oil prices to rise significantly because demand is slowing and there is a glut in global crude markets.
U.S. crude futures traded around $55 per barrel on Friday, putting the contract on track to fall this week by about 8%, the steepest decline in seven weeks on concerns slowing economic growth will reduce global oil demand.
Looking ahead, crude futures were trading around $55 a barrel for the balance of 2019 and $54 in calendar 2020.
U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co this week said that projections from the exploration and production (E&P) companies it tracks point to a 5% decline in capital expenditures for drilling and completions in 2019 versus 2018.
Cowen said independent producers expect to spend about 11% less in 2019, while major oil companies plan to spend about 16% more.
In total, Cowen said all of the E&P companies it tracks that have reported will spend about $81.1 billion in 2019 versus $85.4 billion in 2018.
Year-to-date, the total number of oil and gas rigs active in the United States has averaged 1,010. Most rigs produce both oil and gas.
Analysts at Simmons & Co, energy specialists at U.S. investment bank Piper Jaffray, forecast the average combined oil and gas rig count will slide from a four-year high of 1,032 in 2018 to 992 in 2019 before rising to 1,011 in 2020 and 1,067 in 2022.
That is the same as Simmons forecast since late June.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Marguerita Choy and Susan Thomas