By Scott DiSavino
May 17 (Reuters) – US energy companies have reduced the number of oil platforms for the second week in a row this week, with the number of counts at the lowest level since March 2018, as some coffers continue plans to cut back.
Despite those cuts, it was expected that production in the nation's largest shale formations would continue to rise from record levels.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Drillers cut three oil rigs in the week to May 17, bringing the total count down to 802, below the 844 units operating a year ago, General Electric Co.'s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report on Friday.
The rig counting, an early indicator for future production, has declined over the past five months because independent exploration and production companies have reduced spending on new drilling because they focus more on profit growth rather than more production.
Large oil companies, such as Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp, reinforce their presence, especially in the Perm, the largest American shale oil field.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) this week predicted the US oil production of seven large shale formations would reach a record high of 8.49 million barrels per day (GDP) in June.
US crude futures, meanwhile, were trading around $ 63 a barrel on Friday, putting the contract on schedule with nearly 3% for the week as austerity and concern about possible further disruption to shipments in the Middle East.
Looking ahead, raw futures were trading around $ 63 per barrel for the balance of 2019 and $ 60 in calendar 2020.
The American financial services provider Cowen & Co said this week that projections from the exploration and production companies (E & P) they are following indicate a 5% decrease in investment expenditure for drilling and completion in 2019 versus 2018.
Cowen said independent producers expect to spend about 11 percent less in 2019, while large oil companies want to spend about 16% more.
In total, Cowen said that all E&P companies they reported will spend around $ 81.9 billion in 2019 compared to $ 86.4 billion in 2018.
Year-to-date, the total number of oil and gas platforms in the United States averaged 1,029. Most drilling installations produce both oil and gas.
Analysts at Simmons & Co, energy specialists at the American investment bank Piper Jaffray, however, predict that the average combined number of oil and gas installations will slide from a peak of four years from 1,032 in 2018 to 1,019 in 2019 before rising to 1,097 in 2020.
That is the same as Simmons' predictions since early April.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Marguerita Choy)