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Dec 9, 4:16 PM EST

US rig count up 27 this week to 624; Texas adds 17


HOUSTON (AP) -- The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 27 this week to 624.

A year ago, 709 rigs were active. Depressed energy prices have curtailed exploration, although the rig count has been rising in recent weeks.

Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday that 498 rigs sought oil and 125 explored for natural gas this week. One was listed as miscellaneous.

Texas gained 17 rigs, Colorado increased by six, Wyoming gained three, Pennsylvania increased by two and Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico and North Dakota each gained one.

Alaska, Louisiana and Oklahoma each declined by one.

California, Ohio, Utah and West Virginia were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May at 404.

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