U.S. oil explorers expand drilling as OPEC prepares to talk cuts

Drilling in the Permian Basin. Image: Chevron

Oil explorers expanded drilling in American fields as OPEC and allied crude exporters prepared to discuss production controls and cratering prices.

Working oil rigs in the U.S. rose by two this week to 887, according to data released Friday by Baker Hughes. More than 125 additional rigs have been deployed this year as drillers sought to maximize output from the Permian Basin and other shale regions.

Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s biggest crude exporters, have yet to agree on whether supplies should be curtailed to arrest the free fall in crude markets. In New York, oil futures lost more than a fifth of their value since the end of October for the worst monthly performance in a decade.

Shale drillers in Texas, North Dakota and Oklahoma have been unrelenting in lifting production even as falling prices threatened to squeeze profits. Nationwide, oil output has climbed 20 percent this year, touching an unprecedented 11.7 million barrels a day last week.

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