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30% Of U.S. Shale Drillers Could Go Under

30% Of U.S. Shale Drillers Could Go Under

U.S. shale was one of the big losers of the Saudi-Russian price war that many saw as a war on U.S. shale. Producers scrambled to stay afloat as prices sank back to lows not seen since 2016, and they are still scrambling. Banks are giving them the cold shoulder, worried that many will not be able to pay their debts. Is there a way out? According to various forecasting agencies, there is, but it will take a while. A Bloomberg analysis of forecasts for the shale industry made by outlets such as the International Energy Agency, energy consultancy Rystad, IHS Markit, Genscape, and Enervus suggests shale will be back on its feet by 2023, with production back to over 12 million bpd.

This is not a long time for a full recovery, really, especially given the current circumstances, including shut-in wells, abandoned drilling plans, tight cash, and, for many, looming bankruptcies.

As much as 30 percent of shale drillers could go under if oil prices fail to move substantially higher, Deloitte said in a recent study, as quoted by CNN. These 30 percent, the firm said, are technically insolvent at oil prices of $35 a barrel. Right now, West Texas Intermediate is higher than $35 but not by much. Oil is now trading closer to $35 than to $50—the level at which most shale drillers will be making money.

And they need to make money: banks have started cutting credit lines for industry players as they reassess their assets and the production that they promised would be realized from these assets. According to calculations by Moody’s and JP Morgan, cited by the Wall Street Journal, banks could reduce asset-backed loan availability for the industry by as much as 30 percent, which translates into tens of billions of dollars.

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