US shale gas and tight oil industry performance: challenges and opportunities

In just seven years, the US shale gas and tight oil revolution has created significant new challenges and opportunities and a new known-unknown that energy market players and analysts must learn to deal with in the years to come. Among all the data and evidence at hand, this comment focuses around the following pieces of industry data that capture a vast amount of relevant context (technical and commercial) and decision-making: (1) recent announcements by large and small industry players, such as write-downs, and (2) financial performance analysis of US shale gas and tight oil independents. The article argues the shale industry has been focused on drilling and this is likely to remain the focus for years to come as companies delineate acreage spacing, increasing the longevity of these plays and the span of drilling that may require decades not years. A key question is who can, or will want to, fund the drilling of millions of acres and hundreds of thousands of wells at an ongoing loss? The article concludes that a more realistic outcome is that sections of the industry will have to restructure and focus more rapidly on the most commercially sustainable areas of the plays possibly yielding a lower production growth in the US than is currently expected, but perhaps a more lasting one. It argues that not all companies are going to end up on top, but shifts in commodity prices and performance improvements will result in a stable ‘core’ group holding the prize.

By: Ivan Sandrea