What Is the Day Rate (Oil Drilling)?

Day rate refers to all in daily costs of renting a drilling rig. The operator of a drilling project pays a day rate to the drilling contractor who provides the rig, the drilling personnel and other incidentals. The oil companies and the drilling contractors usually agree on a flat fee per contract, so the day rate is determined by dividing the total value of the contract by the number of days in the contract.

The Formula for Day Rate (Oil Drilling) Is

Day Rate = Total Contract Value / Number of Days in Contract
Day Rate (Oil Drilling) Formula. Investopedia 

How to Calculate Day Rate (Oil Drilling)

To calculate the day rate (oil drilling), divide the total value of the contract by the number of days in the contract.

What Does Day Rate (Oil Drilling) Tell You?

Day rate (oil drilling) is a metric that investors in the oil and gas industry watch to evaluate the overall health of the industry. The day rate makes up roughly half the cost of an oil well. Of course, the price of oil is the most important metric by far in the oil and gas industry.

That said, investors can gain insights into the oil supply and demand picture by watching metrics like day rate and rig utilization in addition to global inventories. Day rate fluctuations, which can be wide, are used by investors as an indicator of the health of the drilling market. For example, if day rates fall, investors may take it as a sign to exit oil and gas positions.

Key Takeaways

  • The day rate includes the cost of drilling an oil well, including the cost to run the rig, supplies and employees.
  • These costs generally make up half the total cost of an oil well.
  • Tends to have a positive correlation with oil prices and rig utilization rates.

Example of How to Use Day Rate (Oil Drilling)

Day rates can be used to assess the current demand for oil, ultimately gleaming insight into where oil prices are headed. An increase in the price of oil increases the number of projects that can recover their extraction costs, making difficult formations and unconventional oil reserves feasible to extract. The more projects greenlit on an economic basis, the more competition there is for the finite number of oil rigs available for rent – so the day rate rises. When oil prices waver and fall, the day rate that rigs can command drops.

As an example of actual day rates – Transocean signed a contract in December 2018 with Chevron to provide drilling services. The contract is for one rig, will span five years and is worth $830 million. The effective day rate for the rig is $455,000, or $830 million / (5 years x 365 days).

The Difference Between Day Rate (Oil Drilling) and Utilization Rate

Like the day rate, the rig utilization rate is a key metric for determining the overall health of the oil and gas sector. The day rate lays out a large part of the costs of drilling a well, while the utilization rate is how many wells are being used.

Investors use both of these metrics and a fall in each could signal a slowdown in oil demand. High utilization rates mean a company is using a large part of its fleet, suggesting oil demand, and ultimately, oil prices are on the rise. There is a positive correlation between oil prices and both day rates and rig utilization.

Limitations of Using Day Rate (Oil Drilling)

The strength of the correlation between oil prices and day rates is not consistent. The correlation is strong when oil prices and rig utilization are both high. In this situation, day rates increase almost in lockstep with prices. In an environment of rising oil prices and high utilization, the day rates in a long-term contract will shoot up even faster than short term contracts as rig operators demand a premium for being locked in on a project.

In a low price environment with falling utilization, however, the day rate may plunge much faster than the oil prices as rigs enter low bids on long contracts just to keep busy in a potential slowdown. Due to the volatility and the varying strength of the correlation, investors and traders can flip between seeing day rates as a leading or a lagging indicator for oil prices and the health of the oil and gas industry as a whole.

Learn More About Day Rate (Oil Drilling)

To learn more about day rates and the oil drilling industry, check out Investopedia’s guide to the oil services industry.