North America’s unconventional supply is expected to grow even with stagnant oil prices, according to Rystad Energy forecasts.
A substantial build of global crude stocks and a corresponding drop in oil prices was expected to come if the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies had not extend production cuts, as they did last Friday.
“However, even with potentially lower prices, the production outlook for North American shale appears robust in the years ahead,” according to Rystad’s team.
A continued decline since the start of this year in the number of horizontal rigs running across the onshore hasn’t led to “significant fall in the number of spudded wells,” analysts noted.
At the same time, investments in onshore formations have declined this year by 6% to around $129 billion. The cutbacks are seen extending into 2020, with capital expenditures (capex) forecast to retreat by another 11% overall as the industry tightens cash flow discipline and free cash flow generation. Other analysts do not expect 2020 capex to decline by double-digits.
In any case, if capex were to plummet again next year, it would mean two consecutive years of cutbacks, something not seen since oil prices crashed beginning in 2014.
Still, even with a decline in capex and in activity, “the North American shale supply is not following the downward trend,” said Rystad’s Sonia Mladá Passos, product manager of the Shale Upstream Analysis team.
In Rystad’s base case price scenario, North American light tight oil (LTO) supply will reach 11.6 million b/d by 2022, which implies a compound annual growth rate of 10% from 2019-2022.
The base case assumes an average West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price of $55/bbl in 2019, $54/bbl in 2020, $54/bbl in 2021 and $57/bbl in 2022.
If WTI were to remain flat at $45/bbl, LTO supply is forecast to plateau at 10.1 million b/d by around 2022.
“The flat development of U.S. LTO production is also possible in lower price scenarios, but we would likely see an initial period of multi-quarter production decline, with output stabilizing at a lower level,” Mladá Passos said.
North America’s LTO output is forecast to reach 8.6 million b/d this year, with nearly 93% from U.S. prospects and slightly more than 600,000 b/d produced in Canada.
The industry this year is tracking to spud around 17,000 horizontal wells combined that target onshore formations in the United States and Canada.
“Going forward, Rystad Energy expects drilling activity to remain relatively flat at around 17,000 spudded wells per year, on average, according to our base-case price scenario,” analysts said. “However, in a low price scenario with the WTI price remaining flat at $45/bbl, activity in North American shale may begin sharply decreasing, falling by 26% in 2020 year/year.”