US Drilling Boom Stalls for Oil, Gas

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 14, 2009 3:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – It doesn't pay to drill, baby, drill anymore. Falling world prices have brought an end to the boom in domestic drilling for oil and natural gas, the New York Times reports. Last summer, 2,400 gas and oil rigs were deployed in the hunt for energy. Today, that figure is 1,200 and still dropping. “The big bonanza is over,” said one Texas driller whose company has gone from 35 rigs to 8. “Everyone is really shocked how fast everything has turned.”

Thousands of workers have been laid off, with the cutbacks especially pronounced for natural gas. Analysts worry that if companies cut back too severely, they won't be able to respond quickly if demand picks up. One oil exec said it could take up to 2 years to assemble crews again. “Inevitably, the market doesn’t react,” said one analyst. “It overreacts and shoots itself in the foot.”

A drilling site near Gorham, Kan.
A drilling site near Gorham, Kan.   (AP Photo)
An oil worker.
An oil worker.   (AP Photo)
An offshore oil platform.
An offshore oil platform.   (AP Photo)
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When everybody sobers up after the first quarter and sees what their real cash flow is, people are going to be very discouraged about how much capital they have to spend and that will depress the rig count even further. - G. Steven Farris, Apache Energy

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