Denver-based Whiting Petroleum Corp. has filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, citing low oil prices and an uncertain outlook for the sector.

“Given the severe downturn in oil and gas prices driven by uncertainty around the duration of the Saudi/Russia oil price war and the Covid-19 pandemic,” Whiting’s board concluded that a restructuring of its debt “provides the best path forward for the company,” said CEO Bradley Holly. “Through the terms of the restructuring, we believe a right-sized balance sheet will enable us to capitalize on our enhanced cost structure, high-quality asset base and successfully compete in the current environment.”

Holly said that Whiting, which operates in the Williston and Denver-Julesburg basins, “took proactive steps” to reduce its cost structure and improve its cash flow profile in 2019, and that it has “explored a wide variety of alternatives to address our balance sheet and looming note maturities in a highly capital-constrained market environment.”

He added, “Following the restructuring process, we look forward to having substantially less debt and a significantly improved outlook for our company and its stakeholders.”

Analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPC) estimated in March that 2.3 million b/d of U.S. oil supply was coming from distressed producers such as Whiting.

In a recent webinar, Fitch Solutions oil and gas analyst Emma Richards projected a decline of 1.5-2 million b/d in Lower 48 onshore output over the next 12-18 months, and that the rate of bankruptcies among North American exploration and production companies was likely to accelerate in response to the oil price collapse and coronavirus pandemic.

Whiting reported production of 123,000 boe/d in the fourth quarter of 2019, versus 129,160 boe/d in the similar 2018 period.