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Why Isn’t U.S. Shale Production Soaring?

Why Isn’t U.S. Shale Production Soaring?

  • With oil prices threatening to break $100 this year, many observers are confused by the lack of a U.S. shale boom.
  • The major reason that U.S. shale companies are reluctant to boost production at all costs is that they need to keep shareholders happy first and foremost.
  • Other issues include cost inflation and the shrinking number of sweet spots for them to tap.

A lot of news has been coming lately from the U.S. shale patch. Output in the Permian has broken records for two months in a row. The Energy Information Administration has forecast that the U.S. total could also break a record this year, thanks to higher prices.

But is this news good enough?

The rig count is on the rise; there is no question about it. Output is also on the rise. Yet, according to industry executives, this does not necessarily equate to a return to business as normal. On the contrary, it seems that most of the industry is determined to stick to its financial discipline and keep returning cash to shareholders instead of boosting production.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the chief executive of Devon Energy said that shareholders are, on the whole, still skeptical about production increases, and companies are heeding this sentiment.

“In the back of everyone’s minds is, ‘When is it going to be [production] growth? . . . We have investors saying ‘My gosh, if not now, when?’” Rick Muncrief told the Financial Times. “But for every one saying that, there’s at least one other if not two others waiting to say, ‘Gotcha! We knew that discipline would be shortlived.’ We have learned our lesson,” he added.

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