IHS: U.S. Shale Production Growth Will Slow, but Still Remain High

~ 80% of Potential Drilling in 2015 Would Remain "Resilient" at $70 per Barrel
ND Pump Jack Photo

ND Pump Jack | Click to Enlarge

The dip in oil prices isn’t making a huge impact yet on the vast majority of U.S. shale production.

According to a report by research consultancy IHS Energy, most shale plays are economic and ~80% of potential drilling in 2015 would remain strong at WTI crude oil prices as low as $70 per barrel.

“Since 2008 the cumulative growth in U.S. tight oil production has been 3.5 million b/d—far exceeding supply gains from the rest of the world combined—making tight oil the key driver of global supply growth,” said Jim Burkhard, Vice President, IHS. “While current lower crude oil prices do present challenges for new investment, IHS analysis shows that the vast majority of potential U.S. supply growth in 2015 remain economical at $70 for WTI.”

WTI traded at ~$76 on Monday, a nearly 20% drop since September. As a result, Bakken operators, including Emerald Oil, Inc., have already announced plans to potentially scale back their drilling programs in 2015.

Read more: Emerald Oil May Scale Back Bakken Drilling Program in Q1 2015

North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Director Lynn Helms updated lawmakers in October on the status of oil & gas development in the state. Helms said two factors could negatively impact oil production – lower oil prices and new flaring regulations.

Read moreBakken Drillers Could Be Forced to Scale Back 2015 Efforts

Growth Still High, But Expected to Slow in U.S. Shale Plays

At lower prices, growth will slow, but still remain high, according to the report. In 2015, IHS estimates U.S. shale production will grow by 700,000 b/d at an average price of $77 per barrel in 2015. By contrast, in 2014, growth from U.S. shale plays was more than 1-million b/d.

“Expectations of the future—and the trajectory of oil prices—means that prices do not need to fall to the breakeven price before psychology, investment, and thus output, is affected,” Burkhard said.”

Approximately 80% of anticipated production has a break-even price between $50 to $69 per barrel, according to the report.

Marathon Oil’s Bakken Drilling Speed Improves 10% In The Second Quarter

Bakken Production Grew 5% Over The First Quarter
Marathon Oil Bakken Map

Marathon Oil Bakken Acreage Map | Click to Enlarge

Marathon Oil averaged 25 days from spud to spud in the first quarter and that time improved to 22 days in the second quarter. The company’s spud to total depth for each well fell to 15 days.

Marathon hit total depth on 22 wells and brought 16 wells to production. That compares to 18 wells drilled and 22 wells brought to production in the first quarter. [Read more...]

Bakken Crude Can Get Premium Prices on the West Coast

California Doesn't Have Much Receipt Capacity, so Oil is Moving East
Tesoros Carson Refinery

Tesoro’s Carson Refinery Near LA | Click to Enlarge

Bakken crude can realize premium prices by moving west. The only problem is there isn’t much receipt capacity. Long distances, very little pipeline capacity, and limited rail mean it’s hard to move crude West out of ND. Recent estimates show more than 40,000 b/d of Bakken crude is being transported to Washington, but only a few thousand barrels per day is making its way south into California. That’s a problem. West Coast refineries are paying over $105 per barrel for Alaskan crude, while oil in North Dakota is trading for as little as $80 per barrel.

Assuming it would cost $15 per barrel to move crude by rail to Southern California, those looking to profit stand to make $10+ per barrel based on current spreads. That’s more than enough incentive for refineries and midstream companies, but its easier said than done.

“It’s entirely possible California refiners decide they can’t get this done in time to catch the arbitrage, so refiners wouldn’t get the benefit of low-cost crude from the Midcontinent,” said David Hackett, president of energy consultancy Stillwater Associates.

East Coast and Gulf Coast refiners are enjoying some of the best margins in the world, but on the West Coast, refiners are missing the party. If significant rail receipt capacity isn’t built or pipelines converted to oil, refineries might miss out on the benefits of the current domestic oil boom all together.

Tesoro mentioned two relevant measures at its analyst day in early December 2012:

  • Access to cost advantaged crude
  • Ability to cost-effectively address regulator compliance

Bakken crude can help with first issue, but they’re going to have to get the state on their side to make advances with the second issue. Coming off a recent $2.5 billion acquisition of the Carson Refinery from BP, Tesoro has plenty at stake and I don’t expect they’ll let the current oil boom pass them by.

Read an entire article discussing hurdles in California at foxbusiness.com

Kodiak Oil & Gas is Spending More & Lowering Guidance

Kodiak Oil and Gas Bakken Shale Map

Kodiak Oil & Gas Bakken Shale Map | Click to Enlarge

Kodiak Oil & Gas lowered its production guidance for 2012 last week, but beat earning expectations today. The company expected to average 17,000-21,000 boe/d in 2012, but has lowered its production expectation to 15,500-17,500 boe/d. The company still reported a 300% increase in sales volumes year over year for Q3 and expects to hit its 2012 exit rate of more than 27,000 boe/d. My understanding is the company got a little ahead of itself with early projections and is being saved now by better realized prices. Better oil prices led the company to an earnings beat even though production volumes were lower than expected.

The company is also spending $165 million more than initially planned, while completing 66 net wells compared to 51 planned. The total capital budget was planned with $585 million in expenses, but 2012 spending is going to fall closer to $750 million. Almost $80 million of the outspend is due to non-operated areas being developed more quickly than expected. The other $85 million is due to higher costs than expected across the board. The company has spent about 20% more than expected on drilling and completing wells, salt water disposal facilities, and leasehold acquisitions.

The outspend isn’t troubling considering the company is completing almost 30% more wells, but lower production guidance suggest wells aren’t performing quite as strong nor are they coming online as quickly as the company expected. Kodiak expects to complete 26 net wells in the fourth quarter. That represents almost 40% of total activity for the year.

KOG’s CEO commented:

“Kodiak continues to make progress in growing its production, as demonstrated by the 50% increase in average quarterly sales volumes for the third quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2012. With a large number of wells scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter, we should see that same upward trajectory continue over the coming quarters. We completed 10 gross (9.3 net) wells during the month of October, and with two completion crews working steadily through year end, we expect to meet or exceed our stated 2012 exit rate guidance of 27,000 BOE/d.”

Kodiak also expects well costs to fall below $10 million in the coming year. Current wells are running approximately $10.5 million to drill and complete, but pad drilling should allow the company to drill more wells with fewer rigs.