Oil prices closed higher on Thursday after the release of weekly rig count data, but still recorded a second year of steep declines after a race to pump by Middle East crude producers and U.S. shale oil drillers created an unprecedented global glut that may take through 2016 to clear.
U.S. crude rigs fell by 2 this week, and now total 536, according to Baker Hughes. Oil rigs in the U.S. have fallen by 946 in the last year, Baker Hughes said.
Global oil benchmark Brent and U.S. crude's West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were on track finish 2015 down more than 30 percent after another year that showed the helplessness of Saudi Arabia and others in the once-powerful Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to support oil prices.
The U.S. shale industry, meanwhile, surprised the world again with its ability to survive rock-bottom crude prices, churning out more supply than thought, even as the sell-off in oil slashed by two-thirds the number of drilling rigs in the country from a year ago.
The United States also took a historic move in repealing a 40-year ban on U.S. crude exports to countries outside Canada, acknowledging the industry's growth.