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North Dakota blues: The legacy of fracking

North Dakota blues: The legacy of fracking

When oil drillers descended on North Dakota en masse a decade ago, state officials and residents generally welcomed them with open arms. A new form of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for short, would allow an estimated 3 to 4 billion barrels of so-called shale oil to be extracted from the Bakken Formation, some 2 miles below the surface.

The boom that ensued has now turned to bust as oil prices sagged in 2019 and then went into free fall with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The financial fragility of the industry had long been hidden by the willingness of investors to hand over money to drillers in hopes of getting in on the next big energy play. Months before the coronavirus appeared, one former oil CEO calculated that the shale oil and gas industry has destroyed 80 percent of the capital entrusted to it since 2008. Not long after that the capital markets were almost entirely closed to the industry as investor sentiment finally shifted in the wake of financial realities.

The collapse of oil demand in 2020 due to a huge contraction in the world economy associated with the pandemic has increased the pace of bankruptcies. Oil output has also collapsed as the number of new wells needed to keep total production from these short-lived wells from shrinking has declined dramatically as well. Operating rotary rigs in North Dakota plummeted from an average of 48 in August 2019 to just 11 this month.

Oil production in the state has dropped from an all-time high of 1.46 million barrels per day in October 2019 to 850,000 as of June, the latest month for which figures are available. Even one of the most ardent oil industry promoters of shale oil and gas development said earlier this year that North Dakota’s most productive days are over. CEO John Hess of the eponymous Hess Corporation is taking cash flow from his wells in North Dakota and investing it elsewhere.

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

Note to EIA: Major shale operator sending cash elsewhere

Note to EIA: Major shale operator sending cash elsewhere

John Hess, CEO of Hess Corporation, a large U.S.-based independent oil producer, recently told a Houston audience where he’s putting the company’s money these days: Offshore drilling.

That should strike those who know of Hess Corporation’s heavy involvement in the Bakken shale play (in North Dakota) as a bit strange. Hess says the company will “use cash flow from the Bakken to invest in longer-term offshore investments.”

Hess told his audience that “key U.S. shale fields are starting to plateau, calling shale ‘important but not the next Saudi Arabia.'” Setting aside whether Hess is actually getting investable cash from the Bakken, the constant refrain from the U.S. oil industry has been precisely that shale plays ARE the next Saudi Arabia.

Someone should send a note to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) that maybe it’s not all going to work out. If Hess is right about a peak in U.S. shale oil production soon, that peak will come about a decade earlier than the peak forecast by the EIA.

None of this will come as a surprise to geologist David Hughes whose most recent update on U.S. shale oil and natural gas production suggests that not only will Hess be proven generally correct, but that production will fall much farther than the EIA believes in the coming decades. Hughes continues to rate EIA estimates of ultimate recovery from America’s shale oil and natural gas fields as “extremely optimistic, and highly unlikely to be realized.”

U.S. shale oil production has been a major driver in the growth of world oil supplies. Last year the United States accounted for 98 percent of global growth in oil production. Since 2008 the number is 73 percent. It’s not hard to imagine that a slowdown in U.S. oil production growth or worse yet a decline in overall U.S. production would mean trouble for the entire world.

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

The U.S. Shale Industry Hit A Brick Wall In 2019

The U.S. Shale Industry Hit A Brick Wall In 2019

The Great U.S. Shale Industry Machine is finally running out of steam.  What looked very promising for the shale industry in 2018 seems incredibly bleak this year.  And, if the situation doesn’t turn around quickly for the shale industry, 2019 might turn out to be the year that production ultimately peaks in the United States.

There several factors that have negatively impacted the U.S. Shale Industry in 2019; the compounded annual decline rate, the massive debt–inability for shale companies to raise money, and the stunning amount of new wells necessary to increase overall production.  While shale experts are knowledgeable of the typical 60-70% first-year decline rate of shale wells, not much is mentioned about the “compounded annual decline rate.”

The chart above shows that as overall Shale oil production increases, the decline curve becomes steeper. U.S. shale oil production in the top four fields hasn’t increased all that much because the nearly 6,000 wells brought online so far this year had to offset the stunning 2 million barrel per day decline from the production in 2018.

The next series of charts, from Shaleprofile.com, will show why the U.S. Shale Industry has hit a brick wall.  The first chart shows the number of wells added each year in the top four shale fields:

The four top U.S. shale fields are the Bakken, Niobrara, Permian, and Eagle Ford.  In 2017, the shale industry added 7,636 wells, 9,953 wells in 2018, and 5,924 wells by August 2019.  According to Shaleprofile.com, there are still 82 wells not accounted for yet in 2019.  So, the total for the first eight months of 2019 is 6,006.

If we look at the Well Profiles part of the chart, we can clearly see that when the increase in the number of wells in 2015 and 2016 started to taper off, overall production plateaued and declined. 

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

Capital Flight Is Killing The US Shale Boom

Capital Flight Is Killing The US Shale Boom

Capital Flight

The growth in U.S. shale production is grinding to a halt as low prices put drillers in a financial vice.

The slowdown has been unfolding for much of 2019, but the latest slide in oil prices is another blow to cash-strapped companies. Share prices for many E&Ps are down sharply. For instance, Devon Energy’s stock is down 20 percent since mid-September; EOG Resources is off by 17 percent and Pioneer Natural Resources is down by more than 13 percent. Many other companies have seen similar declines.

Rig counts have fallen by 20 percent since last year, drilling is down, hotel rates are down, and employment is in decline. “If you can’t wring out any costs savings then you’ve got to buy less stuff if you want to get your costs down, and that’s the phase we’re entering into,” Jesse Thompson, senior business economist at the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, told Bloomberg.

As Bloomberg noted, annualized employment grew only 0.7 percent through August, compared to 11.4 percent for the same period in 2018. The unemployment rate has ticked up from 2 to 2.3 percent. The number of fracking crews has fallen to its lowest level in 30 months.

For embattled shale drillers, there is another imminent hurdle that they must clear. For the first time since 2016, Permian shale drillers could see their access to borrowing slashed. Lenders periodically reassess the borrowing base that they offer to oil and gas producers, a so-called “credit redetermination” period.

According to a survey of financial institutions as well as oil and gas firms by law firm Haynes and Boone, the industry is set to see “a decrease in credit availability for producers and a strong interest in alternative sources of capital.”

In other words, lenders are turning off the spigots.

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

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