It’s been a month now that investors and analysts have been closely watching two main drivers for oil prices: how OPEC is doing with the supply-cut deal, and how U.S. shale is responding to fifty-plus-dollar oil with rebounding drilling activity. Those two main factors are largely neutralizing each other, and are putting a floor and a cap to a price range of between $50 and $60.
The U.S. rig count has been rising, while OPEC seems unfazed by the resurgence in North American shale activity and is trying to convince the market (and itself) and prove that it would be mostly adhering to the promise to curtail supply in an effort to boost prices and bring markets back to balance. In the next couple of months, official production figures will point to who’s winning this round of the oil wars.
This would be the short-term game between low-cost producers and higher-cost producers.
In the longer run, the latest energy outlook by supermajor BP points to another looming battle for market share, where low-cost producers may try to boost market shares before oil demand peaks.
BP’s Energy Outlook 2017 estimates that there is an abundance of oil resources, and “known resources today dwarf the world’s likely consumption of oil out to 2050 and beyond”.
“In a world where there’s an abundance of potential oil reserves and supply, what we may see is low-cost producers producing ever-increasing amounts of that oil and higher-cost producers getting gradually crowded out,” Spencer Dale, BP group chief economist said.
In BP’s definition of low-cost producers, the majority of the lowest-cost resources sit in large, conventional onshore oilfields, particularly in the Middle East and Russia.
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