Independent producers are struggling to hit output targets at current price levels while the majors are focusing on becoming more efficient.
The outlook for Argentina’s Vaca Muerta is arguably more positive than it has ever been, with some oil majors recently giving the go-ahead on big shale investments in the country.
Oil majors may not be entirely out of the woods yet, but first-quarter performances suggest that they are on the upswing after nearly three years of mostly red ink.
If oil demand were to peak, the industry would likely see a good bit of consolidation, but the situation would not bring about a collapse.
Even as ExxonMobil sharply increases spending on shale this year, it has also prioritized one major project in particular—a drilling prospect off the coast of Guyana.
Algeria's president has called for the country to combat the “hegemony of fuel” in light of recent economic devastation.
Exxon and other oil majors are still giving the green light to a handful of complex and risky but potentially highly profitable projects offshore, while at the same time increasingly shifting more resources into safer, smaller-scale shale drilling.
Oil majors are now cash flow neutral with oil prices trading around $50 per barrel, a milestone achieved after relentless cuts to spending and payrolls over the past couple of years.
Third quarter earnings figures for the oil majors reveal a mixed picture for the industry: Companies are dealing with more debt, weaker refining margins, and deeper spending cuts, but they are also experiencing increased optimism that the worst might be over.
Exxon has dismissed the probes of its accounting practices as unwarranted and politically motivated, but they could mark a watershed moment for the oil and gas industry.