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The first signs are appearing that the 60% fall in oil prices since mid-2014 is finally putting a significant dent in Middle East upstream activity.
The region has been a pillar of resilience over the last year with upstream activity hitting new records while drilling activity in the US and elsewhere collapsed. But latest ‘rig count’ figures for April from US oilfield services firm Baker Hughes show Saudi Arabia posting a nine-month low figure of 123, while Iraq’s 43 was the lowest since May 2012 (see table).
Egypt also saw its rig count fall to 30, the lowest since October 2005. The number does not tally though with Egypt’s oil ministry figure which puts the number of rigs operating in the Western Desert alone at 29 and the total at 66. Western Desert focused US-firm Apache in its Q1 results says it drilled a total of 23 wells during the period (see p14). The discrepancy in the figures given by Cairo and Baker Hughes is likely down to what is considered an active rig, as the service firm only counts “active drilling rigs” while Cairo most likely takes all rigs in the country into consideration.
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