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Readers will recall that, for the last several months, I have noted that US oil production per the EIA’s weekly Petroleum Status Report was inconsistent with the data from the EIA’s monthly Drilling Productivity Report (DPR)
The graph below shows that state of play as of last week. The two red arrows at right show the contradictory trends, with total oil production essentially flat while shale oil production is shown rising at a healthy clip. I have noted that this contradiction would have to be resolved by either increasing the weekly numbers or reducing shale oil output.
We now have the answer.
The graph below shows the state of play as of March 14th, when the EIA issued the March DPR. It shows simply massive downward reductions in US shale oil output. In the March report, shale oil output from the key plays is reduced by 443,000 bpd for January and 250,000 bpd for February. If we go back one more month to the January DPR, shale oil production has been reduced by 542,000 bpd for December 2022. This is a huge revision, more than 4% of total US crude and condensate production over a two month period.
With this revision, as the current graph (below) shows, US shale oil production is largely flat over the last four months, and trends in shale oil supply are consistent with the overall US crude oil supply (including conventional onshore wells, Gulf of Mexico offshore, and Alaska). I need hardly point out that this is not good news, as the visible peak of horizontal oil rigs is now beginning to pair up with plateauing oil production, just as we would expect.
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The lasting damage from the weekend’s attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure is yet to be fully assessed. Having said that, we can make some broad statements about supply outages and economic cycles.
Although we tend to forget it, almost all of the major US recessions since 1945 have been triggered by wars in the Middle East involving Persian Gulf countries and oil politics.
- The 1956-1957 Suez Crisis led to the closing of the Suez canal and rapidly precipitated a recession in the advanced economies
- The Yom Kippur War of 1973 led to an embargo on oil exports to the US and other western countries, precipitating the first US post-peak oil shock
- The Iran-Iraq War created another price spike, triggering the Second Oil Shock, two back-to-back recessions in the US (1979-1983)
- Price increases associated with Saddam Hussein’s preparations for the First Gulf War tipped in the US into recession in 1991
- The Arab Spring of 2011 created supply shortages which sent oil prices back over $100/barrel, leading to a two year recession in Europe
In recent times, only the 2001 Dot.com bust and the 2008 oil price spike were not associated with supply outages related to a conflict in the Middle East. A conflict-induced recession would not be an exception to the rule, but rather the typical trigger ending a late stage expansion in the west.
Oil shocks hit the economy with incredible speed, usually within thirty days.
The magnitude necessary to precipitate a price spike and a resulting recession is probably less than a loss of 3 mbpd, 3% of global supply. Over the weekend, Saudi outages totaled 5.7 mbpd. The oil price would have to reach around $110 / barrel to push the world into recession, before taking into consideration the phase of the business cycle. The closest parallel is 1991, when a brief oil price spike pushed an already tottering US economy into recession.
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