Big Oil’s growing shale footprint may stabilize US oil outlook: BP’s Dale
US tight oil production could become less sensitive to price volatility in the coming years as more cash-rich oil majors pile into the sector and commit to new development spending, BP’s chief economist Spencer Dale said.
Over the last two years, the concentration of investment spending by the top 10 US tight oil producers has started to rise, edging up to 50% from 45%, according to BP’s latest Statistical Review of World Energy, indicating that recent shale acquisitions by oil majors is feeding through to spending plans.
Uncertainty over longer-term global oil demand, the falling costs of drilling and fast development times for US shale have underpinned a strategic shift by many oil majors to prioritize shorter cycle returns from shale developments.
Major acreage holders in the key Permian US shale Basin include the supermajors Chevron and ExxonMobil with the scale of Occidental’s shale stake set to grow sharply following its recent $33-billion deal for Anadarko. Both BP and Shell have said they are looking to grow their production and footprint in US shale and unconventional oil projects.
“Big Oil has increased its footprint and the incentives for consolidation to exploit the benefits of scale and contiguous acreage have increased,” Dale said, presenting the Statistical Review.
“The intuition here is large oil companies have bigger balance sheets and so are able to smooth through variations in oil prices and capital and may make production less sensitive [to prices],” he said.
US production of tight oil and natural gas liquids from shale plays has bounced back from the 2014 oil prices slump, jumping by a record 2.2 million b/d last year, according to BP.
Continued IOC expansion into shale plays means the majors now make up some 18% of shale drilling activity in the US, Citi Group’s head of commodities research Ed Morse said last month.
With the role of oil majors in the US shale sector growing, Morse said some industry watchers are underestimating the growth potential of shale developments. The US could be producing more than 29 million b/d of oil and other liquids within just six years, over 50% more than current levels, Morse told an S&P Global Platts event.