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Wyoming's rig count falls to zero for only second time in 136 years
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Wyoming's rig count falls to zero for only second time in 136 years

Pinedale Anticline

A QEP Resources drilling rig operates on the Pinedale Anticline in May 2012. On Tuesday, the state's rig count crashed to zero for only the second time since 1884.

Workers laid down Wyoming’s last operating gas rig this week in Sweetwater County, dropping the state’s total rig count to zero, a jolting reminder of the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This marks only the second time the state’s rig count has reached zero since 1884, according to Pete Obermueller, executive director of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. At the time, Wyoming was still a territory.

The state’s rig count temporarily reached zero on June 26, according to Baker Hughes, but inched back up to one rig the week after.

“It is historic, but not in a great way,” Obermueller said. “There are so many jobs attached to these rigs, and now, people are painfully learning so much revenue is attached too. It’s mind boggling and hard to capture the impact.”

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming estimates one lost rig translates into 100 lost jobs.

Lyle Williams, a candidate for Senate in District 14, posted on social media a picture of the gas rig being laid down on Tuesday.

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“Another sad day,” he wrote in the post on Facebook. “Rigging down the last working drilling rig in Wyoming.”

The rig was operated by Wexpro/Dominion and located just south of Rock Springs near the Colorado border, Williams told the Star-Tribune.

The rig count is typically a prime indicator of oil and gas activity levels. Last August, Wyoming’s rig count hovered around 37 rigs.

But cratering demand for oil during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a global price war, has decimated oil and gas producers in the U.S. In April, future prices for oil fell into the negatives for the first time in history.

Though prices have inched back up in the weeks and months since the global price war began, the continued spread of the virus worldwide and uncertainty over another potential glut in supply has plunged several energy firms into insolvency.

The Equality State relies heavily on revenue from oil, gas and other natural resources. The collapse of energy prices, coupled with the onslaught of the pandemic, led state analysts to revise initial revenue forecasts this spring. The state is now facing a $1.5 billion revenue decline.

Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry at @camillereports

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Energy and Natural Resources Reporter

Camille Erickson covers the state's energy industries. She received her master's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Before moving to Casper in 2019, she reported on business and labor in Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington.

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