With crude under $50/bbl and natural gas under $3/MMBTu, how many of these wells can maintain profitability?
To help answer this question, let's examine the two largest mixed well producing regions: according to the EIA, these are Permian Basin and Eagle Ford. Permian produces 1.88 million barrels of oil per day and 6,188 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, making it the largest oil producing area and fourth largest for natural gas. Eagle Ford produces 1.69 million barrels of oil per day and 7,527 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, both are the second largest in their respective categories. For comparison, the Marcellus shale produces 16,319 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, by far the largest in the nation, and only 55 thousand barrels of oil per day.
An October report from Reuters collected estimates for breakeven prices on oil production in the US. Though the estimates range quite a bit from one analyst to another, they are still useful in predicting how current prices will affect rig counts and extraction rates moving forward. It is important to note that these figures are just to break even on extraction and transportation costs.
In the liquid rich areas of the Eagle Ford, UBS has the lowest estimate with $43.34/bbl to break even. Credit Suisse was just over $46/bbl and Robert W. Baird Equity Research estimated $53/bbl. These low numbers only represent a minority of wells in the Eagle Ford; region-wide Morgan Stanley estimated the breakeven to be between $60-$80/bbl, and according to Goldman Sachs, it's as high as $80-$90/bbl.
The numbers are fairly similar in the Permian basin, without as wide a range. Liquid-rich regions with cheap extraction costs are slightly higher than in the Eagle Ford, yet the harder to extract regions are slightly cheaper. The analyst breakeven numbers range from $55-$65/bbl in the cheap areas up to $80/bbl as a regional average.
As we can see from these numbers, most wells are currently not producing at a profit. As a result, many wells are closing. According to Baker Hughes, there were 1,482 land-based rigs in operation on January 30th, 86 less than the week before and 226 less than the year before. Of the 86 that closed 58 were in Texas, where the Permian Basin and much of the Eagle Ford shale reside.Read more by clicking here.
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