After a downturn in 2009, the Middle East rig market is recovering strongly and the outlook for the coming year is for a further increase in upstream exploration work.
According to figures from the US' Baker Hughes International, the active rig count for the Middle East region (excluding North Africa) hit a low of 234 rigs in August 2009. By January 2010, it had climbed to 260. The recovery then slowed: a year later, the active rig count had increased by just nine.
But throughout 2011, the upstream market grew7 strongly and by December, the total number of active rigs had reached 304. The average active rig count for the Middle East in 2011 was 291, up from 265 the previous year.
The increase has mainly been due to oil exploration, rather than a. rise in gas drilling activity. The active oil rig count in the Middle East rose from 170 in February 2010 to 230 by the end of 2011, an increase of just under 30 per cent in less than two years. The number of active gas rigs in the region increased from a low of 68 in August 2009 to 93 in October 2010, but by December 2011 had fallen back to 74, according to Baker Hughes.
Onshore rigs …