Faltering U.S. gas production in 2016 was an aberration, a side effect of both low prices and the collapse in the oil market, which cut the output of associated gas. In the next five years, U.S. gas production will make up 40% of global supply growth.
Electricity and renewable investments fell modestly last year, but the lower price environment over the past three years has taken a particular toll on upstream oil and gas outlays.
It’s groundhog year for the OPEC cartel, which has been unable to structurally shift fundamentals and prices in its favor since the price collapse in mid-2014, and it is reliving its catch-22 scenario with competing producers.
Even though the fortunes of the shale industry have suddenly reversed course, it is not clear that drilling will abruptly take a hit.
The recent increase in floating storage is an ominous sign that the OPEC cuts may not balance the market, and it also poses a threat to the ambitious drilling campaigns by U.S. shale companies that are still recovering from the price crash to below $30 in early 2016.
There are some signs that the U.S. shale industry is bumping up against its productivity limits, which could lead to lower-than-expected output gains or rising drilling costs.
With domestic production rising and OPEC reducing sales to Asia, the U.S. has taken advantage of shifting market conditions by shipping more crude to customers overseas. The U.S. exported an eye-opening 900,000 b/d of crude during Q1, with volumes going to 24 different countries.
More and more market watchers are making the case that OPEC should just leave well enough alone and let the free market set the price. While trying to influence sentiment and fundamentals, on nearly a daily basis, OPEC has already destabilized the market and guarantees more uncertainty ahead.
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.
The combination of higher interest rates and rising drilling costs could stifle the rebound in shale production. While the oil majors will likely take higher interest rates in stride, more expensive credit would threaten the financial health of small E&Ps.