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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Opinions Differ on Whether OPEC Can Stifle U.S. Shale Development by Forcing Lower Oil Prices

OPEC made a lot of headlines by maintaining current crude expectation quotas, an announcement that sent the price of oil plunging to depths unseen in quite some time.  Reuters referred to the decision as a declaration of war on U.S. shale oil, which is undoubtedly the driving factor behind it.  But will that prove to be an effective strategy?

Like seemingly every question related to the energy industry, the answer is likely to differ depending on who is asked.

Business Insider says that the Bakken and Permian Basin are operating at a loss with oil prices at $66 a barrel (although the Eagle Ford remains profitable).  The same article goes on to say that drilling activity will likely slow down in marginal parts of the nation's top oil plays, and that if the price of oil remains down for a few months OPEC will likely achieve their objective by "dealing a blow" to oil production in the Untied States.

Tim Mullaney at MarketWatch has a different view on matters, stating that 3 factors will prevent OPEC's strategy from accomplishing its goal:
One, North American crude isn’t as expensive to produce as it used to be. Two, there’s more than you think in the pipeline to make it even cheaper. And third, OPEC nations, including Saudi Arabia, have squandered their edge in cheap oil supplies on welfare states rulers can’t easily cut back.
The article goes on to state that average production cost for a barrel of oil in North Dakota is now only $42, making it much more profitable than previously thought because of advancements in technology which have allowed for more efficient production.

While the cost for Saudi Arabia is only $2 per barrel to get oil from the ground, Mullaney points out that analysts place the end cost per barrel at over $100 "because of what they do with the money once they have it."

This will all play out one way or another soon enough.  For the average person, the best thing to do may be to just sit back and enjoy having cheaper gas while it lasts.


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