There is a growing pile of evidence pointing to a slowdown in the U.S. shale industry, as low prices take their toll.
The rate of hydraulic fracturing began to decline in the last four months of 2018, a sign that U.S. shale activity began to slow even before the plunge in oil prices. According to Rystad Energy, the average number of fracking jobs declined to 44 per day in November 2018, down from an average of between 48 and 50 for the five-month period between April and August 2018.
“After reaching a peak in May/June, fracking activity in the Permian Basin has gradually decelerated throughout the second half of 2018,” Rystad Energy senior analyst Lai Lou said in a statement.
“Looking at preliminary data for November, we see evidence that seasonal activity deceleration has likely started in all major plays except Eagle Ford,” Lou added. “There has been a considerable slowdown in Bakken and Niobrara in November, our analysis shows.” Rystad said that much of the slowdown can be attributed to smaller companies.
The drilling data echoes that of the Dallas Fed, which reported last week that drilling activity began to slow in the Permian in the fourth quarter. Whether measuring by production, employment, business activity, equipment usage rates – a wide variety of data from the shale industry points to an unfolding slowdown.
Moreover, independent data also suggests that a lot of shale drillers are not profitable with oil prices below $50 per barrel. Breakeven prices on the very best wells can run in the $30s or $40s per barrel, but industry-wide all-in costs translate into much higher breakeven thresholds. The rig count has also already plateaued after growing sharply in the first half of 2018.
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