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What Does the US Rig Count Mean for the Oil and Gas Industry?

At noon on Friday, the last day of the work week, Baker Hughes will continue a tradition began in 1944 when they release their weekly US rig count. Week after week, month after month, year after year, this metric is used by journalists, financial experts, and academics as the pulse of the domestic oil and gas industry. 

But what does the Baker Hughes rig count truly measure, and what do its rise and fall mean for the industry at large?

The Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count

For 75 years, Baker Hughes, an oilfield products and services company owned by GE, has published a weekly count of the nation’s active rotary rigs. 

A rotary rig is the bit of machinery that “rotates the drill pipe from [the surface] to drill a new well (or sidetracking an existing one) to explore for, develop and produce oil or natural gas.” Hughes doesn’t take into account rigs with low production in this number, but the company will include specific non-rotary rigs in the US rig count under certain circumstances.

In other words, Baker Hughes believes the active rig count to be an accurate measurement of the future demand for oilfield products and services. In a very real sense, the US rig count is used by Baker Hughes to indicate how profitable their company (and other oilfield services companies) may be in the future.

Academics also use Baker Hughes’ count as a means to study long-term fluctuations in the industry.

How Important Is the Rig Count, Really?

In today’s oil and gas sector it would be easy to make the mistake of discounting the importance of the US rig count. Advancements in technology and improvements in the efficiency of extraction, for example, have created an industry that can flourish even when rig counts fall. As such, it has become impossible to judge the overall health of the domestic oil and gas industry using the Baker Hughes rig count alone.

In spite of the changes to the oil and gas industry, the US rig count remains a vital measurement, because it measures physical investment. Unlike other metrics which measure potential, the Baker Hughes count represents the genuine faith that investors have in oil and gas.

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Separate the Hype From the Facts in the Fracking Fight

Less than a month away from a pivotal vote in the Colorado elections, the campaign to denigrate hydraulic fracturing is in full swing. As the press parades anecdotal evidence of discontent Coloradans and dubious scientific evidence in voters’ faces, it’s important to remember the facts behind hydraulic fracturing, because this energy extraction process is nowhere near as harmful as its opponents would have you believe. 

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United States Leads the World in Reducing Carbon Emissions

When Donald Trump led the United States out of the Paris climate agreement last June, he was lambasted by the left for putting the national and global environment in peril. A little over a year later, however, it would appear that the numbers are skewing the other direction.

The U.S.A. Is #1

Over the course of 2017, the United States economy grew by three percent. Specifically, the oil and gas sector ramped up production after a multi-year slump. The red alerts splashed across the front page, and the (apparent) crowds of protestors clustering around drilling and fracking projects might have you thinking that this growth is also triggering a huge jump in hazardous pollution.

If that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong. Over the course of 2017, the United States reduced the emissions of carbon gas by half a percent. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a massive drop in the output of pollution.

It’s not a fluke, either. Since 2005, the United States has reduced carbon emissions by an astonishing 758 million metric tons. To put that in perspective, America eliminated nearly as much carbon emissions as the entire European Union (770 million metric tons in reduced carbon emissions).

Meanwhile, On the Other Side of the Planet …

Let’s speak plainly: every single one of the countries who entered the Paris Accord has failed to meet their goal for reduced carbon emissions. In fact, only 5 of the nations — Luxembourg, Netherlands, France, Portugal, and Sweden — have come within 50 percent of their planned goals.

The worst offenders are China and India, manufacturing nations who are pumping 10 tons of greenhouse gas for every ton that the United States eliminates.

The Solution Is Action, Not Signatures

When it comes down to it, exiting the Paris climate agreement didn’t really change the course charted a decade ago by corporations operating in the United States. Motivated not by federal regulation, but a sense of community, America’s companies have reduced carbon emissions of their own accord.

The numbers will tell you that no amount of government posturing can fix the environment. It doesn’t take regulation, it takes a collective desire to change.

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So, Apparently, Fracking Makes You Fat Now

According to a new study from Duke University, living near an active fracking project has the potential to make people gain weight uncontrollably. The research is just another assault from a university that is actively taking the fight to frackers … and that’s a bad thing, folks.

Does Fracking Really Unlock Evil Fat Cells?

Okay, folks, get ready to feel the brunt of some scaremongering. A study released on Thursday from Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment claims that mysterious fracking chemicals can sneakily infiltrate your drinking water and “trigger cells that are sitting in your body, [waiting] to be recruited to become fat cells for energy storage.”

In layman’s terms, that means fracking can turn you into a chunk. The news would be pretty terrifying if these results remotely approached scientific feasibility, but they don’t.

To begin with, the science behind the results is very likely sound. Inevitably, the method applied at one of the nation’s most excellent schools is textbook — and as much snark as you’ll find in the ensuing piece, you shouldn’t read any into the previous statement.

Some Duke lab coats injected fracking chemicals into drinking water and watched a bunch of mice plump up after drinking them. That’s typically how things get done in the academic field, so there’s no point in criticizing the legitimacy of the findings. In other words, when these Duke scientists began their experiment, they likely did absolutely nothing wrong between hypothesis in conclusion.

They just forgot one crucial, experiment-breaking fact.

There Is No Proof That Fracking Contaminates Drinking Water

Okay, one more time, because it seems to bear mentioning: fracking does not contaminate drinking water. Over the last few years, several studies have released highlighting the supposed nightmares that occur when fracking chemicals invade drinking water. Whether it’s attacking immune systems, lowering fertility, causing migraines, or giving your kids a cookie after you told them “no,” current academic studies will stop at nothing to convince you that fracking chemicals are terrible in drinking water. That might be true, but the truth is that — and say it with me now — fracking chemicals do not get into the drinking water.

The USGS did an extensive study that indicated that very fact in June of 2017. Two years earlier, the EPA concluded a five-year investigation that stated fracking might infest drinking water but only in the event of some inane extenuating circumstances.

One of the EPA’s studies, for example, said fracking chemicals could absolutely contaminate drinking water if they were injected directly into the water supply. Uh … duh.

The Problem With Activist Science

In their mission statement, Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment is proud of their quest to “restore and preserve the world’s environmental resources while adapting to a changing climate and a growing population with aspirations for rising standards of living.”

That’s a noble calling on the surface, but to an average person, something is amiss. Pursuing environmental experiments is well and good, but when you begin your project with the understanding that the results should further some pre-stated goal, then things have gotten off on the wrong foot.

It would seem that the purpose of science was the acquisition of knowledge and not the pursuit of an agenda. When your experiment is based on a scenario that is wildly unlikely to happen, you’re not serving humanity by spreading knowledge, anymore, you’re just grabbing headlines.