Public Shale Drillers Best Private Rivals in Race to Deploy Rigs

Publicly traded oil explorers have taken the lead in expanding shale drilling.


Publicly traded oil explorers such as Occidental Petroleum Corp. and EOG Resources Inc. have taken the lead in expanding shale drilling, displacing private companies that dominated the space for more than a year.

Public drillers added 18 rigs during the final three months of 2022, while their private rivals idled 11, Arun Jayaram, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a note to investors.

Overall, the fleet of rigs operating in the contiguous US expanded by three from the end of September to Dec. 31, according to the Jan. 11 note. JPMorgan’s analysis separated the very largest operators such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. into their own category.

Oil explorers have been contending with higher production costs, a tightening labor market, supply-chain snarls and a dwindling supply of top-tier drilling locations. Closely held companies that accounted for most of the post-pandemic drilling expansion more recently have been husbanding drilling portfolios with an eye on future monetization, Chase Mulvehill, an analyst at Bank of America, said in October.

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