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Is Shale The Future For Big Oil?

Is Shale The Future For Big Oil?

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If anyone had compared shale oil to Google five years ago, it would have sounded strange. Yet when last week in a report Wood Mackenzie’s chairman and chief analyst Simon Flower did just that, comparing shale oil to the FAANG stocks, he had a good reason to do so. Shale oil is the star of the decade as far as the global energy industry is concerned, and now even Big Oil has woken up to this fact.

In a report detailing the relationship of Big Oil and shale, Wood Mac’s analysts forecast a bright future for both, with the share of shale oil in the supermajors’ total production rising from the current 700,000 bpd to 2.2 million bpd in 2026 before it starts declining. This will represent a tenth of the supermajors’ total production, Wood Mac’s research analyst Roy Martin said in the report.

Meanwhile, it’s not just the supermajors that are expanding their shale oil footprint at a fast pace. Large independents are getting larger, too. As Houston Chronicle commentator Chris Tomlinson noted in a recent story on the same topic, “Seasoned oil executives know that when both prices and production rise, it’s time to cash out and sell to the big boys.”

There’s a consolidation underway in the U.S. shale patch, and it will likely continue for some time until, Tomlinson argues, only the strongest players remain, all in a position to benefit from the marriage of lower costs, higher drilling and production efficiency, and consequently, consistent output growth.

Among the most notable acquisitions in this area so far this year were BHP Billiton’s sale of its shale operations to BP for US$10.5 billion, after it was pressured by Elliott Management to exit shale, as well as Encana’s purchase of Newfield Exploration for US$5.5 billion, and Chesapeake’s acquisition of WildHorse Resource Development for US$4 billion.

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