Permian Basin expected to drive fourth quarter U.S crude oil production increases
In its Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) update released this week, EIA forecasts that U.S crude oil production will average 9.4 million barrels per day (b/d) in the second half of 2017, 340,000 b/d more than in the first half of 2017.
EIA’s close monitoring of current rig activity in several producing regions shows continued production growth from tight-oil formations, such as shale in the Permian region, driving overall production increases (Figure 1).
The STEO projects that the most significant production growth in the second half of 2017 will be in the Permian region. Permian production is forecast to grow to 2.6 million b/d in the second half of 2017, a 260,000 b/d increase from the first half of 2017. Production in the Permian continues to increase, in part as a result of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil average monthly prices that have remained higher than $45 per barrel (b) since the second half of 2016.
Extending across western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, the Permian region has developed into one of the more active drilling regions in the United States because its large geographic size and favorable geology contain many prolific tight formations such as the Wolfcamp, Spraberry, and Bonespring. Increases in proppant intensity, lateral lengths, and changes to slick-water completions are also among the factors that have allowed the Permian to remain one of the most economic regions for oil production despite the low-oil-price environment. WTI spot prices averaged $50/b in the first half of 2017, spurring deployment of more rigs to the Permian, which rose steadily from 276 rigs in January to 380 rigs in September. The STEO projects that the Permian region rig count will continue to grow from an average of 341 rigs in 2017 to 371 rigs in 2018, and the WTI price is forecast to average $49/b for the second half of 2017 and $51/b in 2018.
The STEO forecasts Niobrara and Anadarko production to grow by 75,000 b/d and 42,000 b/d, respectively, averaging 500,000 b/d and 460,000 b/d, respectively, for the second half of 2017. This growth makes these two regions the second- and third-largest contributors to the STEO’s projected growth between the first and second half of 2017. Production in the Niobrara and Anadarko regions has grown continuously since January 2017 in response to increasing rig activity and a monthly WTI price range from $45/b to $53/b during the year. With an expectation that prices will continue to be near this range, rig activity and production are expected to continue to grow.
In the STEO forecast, the Bakken region is expected to maintain production at slightly less than 1.1 million b/d through 2017, increasing by 31,000 b/d between the first and second half of the year. The Bakken region predominately spans the Williston Basin, which contains the Bakken and the Three Forks formations. Although the Bakken region is large in geographic size (23 million acres), it contains fewer identified prolific formations than the Permian. In addition, operators in this region are affected by winter weather and have greater transportation constraints in moving oil to refineries and markets. Rigs in the Bakken region grew from 35 in January to 44 in May of this year, increasing further to 51 in September.
The STEO forecasts production in the Eagle Ford region to remain relatively flat in the second half of 2017 at 1.2 million b/d, a 5,000 b/d increase from the first half of 2017. Compared with the Permian, the Eagle Ford region has a significantly smaller geographic area with fewer prolific stacked formations and fewer opportunities to drill. Rigs in the Eagle Ford region grew from 57 to 98 from January through May of this year, but declined to 83 in September, in part as a result of a lagged response to lower WTI prices in the second quarter of 2017. More recently, the Eagle Ford region experienced temporary outages in production and rig activity in August and September because of Hurricane Harvey.
EIA expects Alaska production to remain relatively flat, averaging 460,000 b/d in the second half of 2017, a 22,000 b/d decrease from the first half of 2017, because of seasonal maintenance on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System during the third quarter.
Production in the rest of the United States is expected to remain fairly constant, with relatively modest production declines in California (30,000 b/d) and the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico (7,000 b/d) in the second half of 2017.
In the Lower 48 states, observed rig counts typically follow changes in the WTI price with an approximate four-month lag (Figure 2). In addition to responding to the WTI price, rig counts are related to cash flow and profitability. If returns are positive at a given price level, an operator could choose to add rigs. In that scenario, prices do not have to continually rise to support increases in rig counts. For most predominately tight-oil regions to see continued growth in production, rig activity must continue to increase because of the well dynamics, which on average have high initial production rates but very fast declines (e.g., 60% over the first 12 months of production). However, with the number of rigs continuing to increase, especially in the Permian, EIA has assessed that new wells are being drilled at a pace sufficient to maintain and increase production levels. If that trend changes, EIA will continue its process of adjusting its forecast in regular monthly STEO updates.
EIA models oil production monthly in the STEO at the state and regional levels. The STEO forecast is based on recent trends in drilling and production and on anticipated future changes, driven largely by the WTI price. EIA evaluates past production trends on a well-by-well basis for all production documented since 2014 and uses that history to estimate future well performance and decline rates at the state and regional levels.
As indicated above, EIA has observed that changes in the WTI price affect the number of active drilling rigs within about four months. Changes in the number of active rigs lead to changes in production volumes within about two months. Consequently, the STEO oil production forecast is based on the historical observation that changes in production volumes typically occur about six months after a change in the price of crude oil. The forecast is also influenced by estimates of cash flow and production costs, which vary by region and over time. In addition, the STEO makes assumptions regarding how the inventory of drilled but uncompleted wells responds to price and how that response affects production at the state and regional levels.
All historical production data are benchmarked monthly to the EIA-914 survey data and to EIA’s Petroleum Supply Monthly (PSM) estimates at the state level. The October STEO forecast for oil production is benchmarked to the PSM data for July 2017.
Since it started in 2016, the Dallas Fed Energy Survey quarterly business indicator of the share of exploration and production firms that think oil production will increase or decrease has moved consistently with EIA’s 914 survey of oil production. Consistent with the updated STEO forecast for U.S. oil production, the recently released 2017 third-quarter report from the Dallas Fed survey (July–September) shows expectations of an increase in oil production in Texas, New Mexico, and northern Louisiana from an index of 10.2 in the second quarter to 19.3 in the third quarter.
Forecasting crude oil production is a dynamic process because of many uncertainties. Not all operators respond to price movements at the same time, which leads to uncertainty in the timing and degree of change in the production trend. Constantly evolving drilling practices within the industry, changes in well performance, pipeline infrastructure, and weather events can also have significant influence on the short-term outlook for crude oil production in the Lower 48 states. Production estimates have shifted (and are likely to continue to shift) as new geological information is gained, long-term well productivity is observed, and technological advances and better operational practices improve well productivity and reduce costs. Potential changes in market dynamics, such as recent indications that investors may require companies to focus more on returns and less on production growth, also add uncertainty to the pace and level of future production.
U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices fall
The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell over 6 cents from the previous week to $2.50 per gallon on October 9, up 23 cents from the same time last year. The East Coast and Midwest prices each fell seven cents to $2.52 per gallon and $2.33 per gallon, respectively, the Gulf Coast price fell over six cents to $2.32 per gallon, and the West Coast and Rocky Mountain prices each fell three cents to $2.95 per gallon and $2.54 per gallon, respectively.
The U.S. average diesel fuel price fell nearly 2 cents to $2.78 per gallon on October 9, 33 cents higher than a year ago. The East Coast price fell three cents to $2.79 per gallon, the West Coast and Gulf Coast prices each fell two cents to $3.09 per gallon and $2.60 per gallon, respectively, the Midwest price fell one cent to $2.74 per gallon, and the Rocky Mountain price fell less than one cent, remaining at $2.86 per gallon.
Propane inventories gain
U.S. propane stocks increased by 0.9 million barrels last week to 78.9 million barrels as of October 6, 2017, 25.0 million barrels (24.1%) lower than a year ago. Midwest, Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories increased by 0.5, 0.4 and 0.1 million barrels, respectively, while East Coast inventories dipped slightly, remaining virtually unchanged. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 3.8% of total propane inventories.
Residential heating oil price decreases, propane price increases
As of October 9, 2017, residential heating oil prices averaged $2.65 per gallon, 2 cents per gallon less than last week but 28 cents per gallon more than last year’s price at this time. The average wholesale heating oil price for this week is $1.83 per gallon, almost 7 cents per gallon less than last week but nearly 19 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.
Residential propane prices averaged almost $2.26 per gallon, nearly 3 cents per gallon more than last week and 21 cents per gallon more than a year ago. Wholesale propane prices averaged $1.02 per gallon, 2 cents per gallon higher than last week and over 33 cents per gallon more than last year’s price.
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
In April 2019, Venezuela's crude oil production averaged 830,000 barrels per day (b/d), down from 1.2 million b/d at the beginning of the year, according to EIA’s May 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook. This average is the lowest level since January 2003, when a nationwide strike and civil unrest largely brought the operations of Venezuela's state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), to a halt. Widespread power outages, mismanagement of the country's oil industry, and U.S. sanctions directed at Venezuela's energy sector and PdVSA have all contributed to the recent declines.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Baker Hughes
Venezuela’s oil production has decreased significantly over the last three years. Production declines accelerated in 2018, decreasing by an average of 33,000 b/d each month in 2018, and the rate of decline increased to an average of over 135,000 b/d per month in the first quarter of 2019. The number of active oil rigs—an indicator of future oil production—also fell from nearly 70 rigs in the first quarter of 2016 to 24 rigs in the first quarter of 2019. The declines in Venezuelan crude oil production will have limited effects on the United States, as U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil have decreased over the last several years. EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in 2018 averaged 505,000 b/d and were the lowest since 1989.
EIA expects Venezuela's crude oil production to continue decreasing in 2019, and declines may accelerate as sanctions-related deadlines pass. These deadlines include provisions that third-party entities using the U.S. financial system stop transactions with PdVSA by April 28 and that U.S. companies, including oil service companies, involved in the oil sector must cease operations in Venezuela by July 27. Venezuela's chronic shortage of workers across the industry and the departure of U.S. oilfield service companies, among other factors, will contribute to a further decrease in production.
Additionally, U.S. sanctions, as outlined in the January 25, 2019 Executive Order 13857, immediately banned U.S. exports of petroleum products—including unfinished oils that are blended with Venezuela's heavy crude oil for processing—to Venezuela. The Executive Order also required payments for PdVSA-owned petroleum and petroleum products to be placed into an escrow account inaccessible by the company. Preliminary weekly estimates indicate a significant decline in U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in February and March, as without direct access to cash payments, PdVSA had little reason to export crude oil to the United States.
India, China, and some European countries continued to receive Venezuela's crude oil, according to data published by ClipperData Inc. Venezuela is likely keeping some crude oil cargoes intended for exports in floating storageuntil it finds buyers for the cargoes.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, and Clipper Data Inc.
A series of ongoing nationwide power outages in Venezuela that began on March 7 cut electricity to the country's oil-producing areas, likely damaging the reservoirs and associated infrastructure. In the Orinoco Oil Belt area, Venezuela produces extra-heavy crude oil that requires dilution with condensate or other light oils before the oil is sent by pipeline to domestic refineries or export terminals. Venezuela’s upgraders, complex processing units that upgrade the extra-heavy crude oil to help facilitate transport, were shut down in March during the power outages.
If Venezuelan crude or upgraded oil cannot flow as a result of a lack of power to the pumping infrastructure, heavier molecules sink and form a tar-like layer in the pipelines that can hinder the flow from resuming even after the power outages are resolved. However, according to tanker tracking data, Venezuela's main export terminal at Puerto José was apparently able to load crude oil onto vessels between power outages, possibly indicating that the loaded crude oil was taken from onshore storage. For this reason, EIA estimates that Venezuela's production fell at a faster rate than its exports.
EIA forecasts that Venezuela's crude oil production will continue to fall through at least the end of 2020, reflecting further declines in crude oil production capacity. Although EIA does not publish forecasts for individual OPEC countries, it does publish total OPEC crude oil and other liquids production. Further disruptions to Venezuela's production beyond what EIA currently assumes would change this forecast.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 May 2019 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$61/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
The world’s largest oil & gas companies have generally reported a mixed set of results in Q1 2019. Industry turmoil over new US sanctions on Venezuela, production woes in Canada and the ebb-and-flow between OPEC+’s supply deal and rising American production have created a shaky environment at the start of the year, with more ongoing as the oil world grapples with the removal of waivers on Iranian crude and Iran’s retaliation.
The results were particularly disappointing for ExxonMobil and Chevron, the two US supermajors. Both firms cited weak downstream performance as a drag on their financial performance, with ExxonMobil posting its first loss in its refining business since 2009. Chevron, too, reported a 65% drop in the refining and chemicals profit. Weak refining margins, particularly on gasoline, were blamed for the underperformance, exacerbating a set of weaker upstream numbers impaired by lower crude pricing even though production climbed. ExxonMobil was hit particularly hard, as its net profit fell below Chevron’s for the first time in nine years. Both supermajors did highlight growing output in the American Permian Basin as a future highlight, with ExxonMobil saying it was on track to produce 1 million barrels per day in the Permian by 2024. The Permian is also the focus of Chevron, which agreed to a US$33 billion takeover of Anadarko Petroleum (and its Permian Basin assets), only for the deal to be derailed by a rival bid from Occidental Petroleum with the backing of billionaire investor guru Warren Buffet. Chevron has now decided to opt out of the deal – a development that would put paid to Chevron’s ambitions to match or exceed ExxonMobil in shale.
Performance was better across the pond. Much better, in fact, for Royal Dutch Shell, which provided a positive end to a variable earnings season. Net profit for the Anglo-Dutch firm may have been down 2% y-o-y to US$5.3 billion, but that was still well ahead of even the highest analyst estimates of US$4.52 billion. Weaker refining margins and lower crude prices were cited as a slight drag on performance, but Shell’s acquisition of BG Group is paying dividends as strong natural gas performance contributed to the strong profits. Unlike ExxonMobil and Chevron, Shell has only dipped its toes in the Permian, preferring to maintain a strong global portfolio mixed between oil, gas and shale assets.
For the other European supermajors, BP and Total largely matched earning estimates. BP’s net profits of US$2.36 billion hit the target of analyst estimates. The addition of BHP Group’s US shale oil assets contributed to increased performance, while BP’s downstream performance was surprisingly resilient as its in-house supply and trading arm showed a strong performance – a business division that ExxonMobil lacks. France’s Total also hit the mark of expectations, with US$2.8 billion in net profit as lower crude prices offset the group’s record oil and gas output. Total’s upstream performance has been particularly notable – with start-ups in Angola, Brazil, the UK and Norway – with growth expected at 9% for the year.
All in all, the volatile environment over the first quarter of 2019 has seen some shift among the supermajors. Shell has eclipsed ExxonMobil once again – in both revenue and earnings – while Chevron’s failed bid for Anadarko won’t vault it up the rankings. Almost ten years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP is now reclaiming its place after being overtaken by Total over the past few years. With Q219 looking to be quite volatile as well, brace yourselves for an interesting earnings season.
Supermajor Financials: Q1 2019