July 3 (Reuters) - The number of rigs working in the Gulf of Mexico hit its highest level for more than four years this week, according to Baker Hughes figures out on Wednesday, boosted by the search for oil in North America as crude prices top $100 a barrel.
Now at 57 rigs, activity in the Gulf has improved along with the gradual recovery since the 2010 BP disaster at the Macondo well led to an extended moratorium for U.S. deepwater drilling.
But the decline in work in response to the North American shale gas glut has had just as dramatic an impact. The last time there were 57 rigs working in the Gulf - February 2009 - 54 were focused on natural gas; as of this week, only 14 were.
On the other hand, at 43 rigs, the oil-targeted count is at its highest level since March 2001, according to Baker Hughes.
A note on Tuesday from Bernstein Research flagged the potential of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico for certain stocks that have generally underperformed since Macondo.
“Part of the miss in performance has been related to the moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico following the Macondo tragedy. We note however that (deepwater) activity has returned and is around all time highs,” said Bernstein, singling out companies such as Anadarko and Apache as potential beneficiaries.