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U.S. Shale Drillers Running Out Of Options, Fast

U.S. Shale Drillers Running Out Of Options, Fast

Much has been made about the impressive gains in efficiency and productivity in the shale patch, as new drilling techniques squeeze ever more oil and gas out of new wells. But the limits to such an approach are becoming increasingly visible. The U.S. shale revolution is running out of steam.

The collapse of oil prices has forced drillers to become more efficient, adding more wells per well pad, drilling longer laterals, adding more sand per frac job, etc. That allowed companies to continue to post gains in output despite using fewer and fewer rigs.

However, the efficiency gains may have been illusory, or at best, incremental progress instead of revolutionary change. Rather than huge innovations in drilling performance, companies were likely just trimming down on staff, squeezing suppliers, and drilling in the best spots – perhaps all sensible stuff for companies dealing with shrinking revenues, but nothing to suggest that drilling has leaped to a new level of efficiency. Reuters outlined this phenomenon in detail in a great October 21 article.

For evidence that the productivity gains have run their course, take a look at the latest Drilling Productivity Report from the EIA. Production gains from new rigs – which have increased steadily over the past three years – have run into a wall in the major U.S. shale basins. Drillers are starting to run out of ways to squeeze more oil out of wells from their rigs. Take a look at the below charts, which show drilling productivity flat lining in the Bakken, the Eagle Ford, and the Permian.

Related: Geothermal Energy Could Soon Stage A Coup In Oil And Gas

For oil companies to add new production at this point it would require hiring new workers and new rigs and simply expanding the drilling footprint. That is something that few companies are doing because of low prices. In fact, most exploration companies are doing the opposite – rig counts continue to decline and the layoffs continue to mount.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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