A weekend report by Bloomberg prognosticates that frackers, who surprised many — including OPEC — with their survival know-how in 2015, are running out of options.
In 2015, the fracking outfits that dot America’s oil-rich plains threw everything they had at $50-a-barrel crude. To cope with the 50 percent price plunge, they laid off thousands of roughnecks, focused their rigs on the biggest gushers only and used cutting-edge technology to squeeze all the oil they could out of every well.
Those efforts, to the surprise of many observers, largely succeeded. As of this month, U.S. oil output remained within 4 percent of a 43-year high.
The problem? Oil’s no longer at $50. It now trades near $35.
For an industry that already was pushing its cost-cutting efforts to the limits, the new declines are a devastating blow. These drillers are “not set up to survive oil in the $30s,” said R.T. Dukes, a senior upstream analyst for Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Houston.
The Energy Information Administration now predicts that companies operating in U.S. shale formations will cut production by a record 570,000 barrels a day in 2016. That’s precisely the kind of capitulation that OPEC is seeking as it floods the world with oil, depressing prices and pressuring the world’s high-cost producers. It’s a high-risk strategy, one whose success will ultimately hinge on whether shale drillers drop out before the financial pain within OPEC nations themselves becomes too great.
Read the full report here.