Has the Decline of U.S. Shale From Low Oil Prices Been Exaggerated?
Ever since the oil price decline began in earnest back in July 2014, popular discourse has suggested US shale plays would be in deep trouble. Despite protestations to the contrary, other global producers are often accused of trying to stifle the American shale bonanza, and in some cases with good reason.
Initial forecasts about the imminent decline of US shale surfaced as early as October last year. However, assumptions about a wholesale decline in activity now appear to be exaggerated at best. There are also massive disparities in industry narratives about which shale play is workable at what price. Admittedly, there has been a slowdown but it is not as widespread as some had predicted.
It all bottles down to ingenuity of independent upstarts; the very lot who actually kick-started what we call a shale bonanza in the first place. Here a bit of perspective is required when looking at headline rig count data. The latest installment from Baker Hughes BHI -0.11% puts the number of operational US rigs, as of 27 March, at 1048 down by 761 from the same month last year. Drillinginfo, which uses GPS trackers (see illustration below) to monitor the rigs, found 1096 rigs over a comparable period.
Neither set of figures make for easy reading for the industry, but Tom Morgan, Analyst and Corporate Counsel at Drillinginfo, says making assumptions based on headline data miss one crucial point – efficiency gains.
“No one in the industry is pretending that a lower oil price doesn’t bite. Yet, technological progress over the last decade, especially in terms of horizontal drilling is reaping benefits when times are hard. Over the last three years, efficiency of shale explorers has increased by 25%; so in effect three years ago the profitability of $100 per barrel oil is the same profitability at $75 per barrel.”Continue this article by clicking right here.
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