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America’s Oil Boom is Sputtering Back to Life One Rig at a Time
Post Date: May 11 2015

By Business World Online
For the first time in five months, a rig in the Williston Basin, where North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation lies, sputtered back to life and started drilling for crude once again. And then one returned to the Permian Basin, the nation’s biggest oil play, field services contractor Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday.

Shale explorers including EOG Resources Inc. and Pioneer Natural Resources Co. say they’re preparing to bounce back from the deepest and most prolonged slowdown in U.S. oil drilling on record. The country has lost more than half its rigs since October, casualties of a 49% slide in crude prices during the last half of 2014. Futures rallied above $60 a barrel earlier this week, and a sudden return to oil fields would threaten to end this fragile recovery.

“You’re inviting a lot of pent-up supply to come back into the market -- not only do you have people drilling again, but you have this fracklog of over 4,000 uncompleted wells,” Harry Tchilinguirian, the head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA in London, said by phone. “And then we’re in a situation where the market could easily go back into the mid- $50’s.”

While rigs are returning to some fields, the total U.S. count has continued to decline, falling 11 this week to a four- year low on Friday. The drilling slowdown won’t reach a real bottom for about another month, James Williams, president of energy consultant WTRG Economics, said by phone from London, Arkansas.

“This is an indicator that we’re nearing the end of the bust,” he said. “What we’re going to see now are mixed signals from the different basins as we near the bottom of the cycle.”

Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc., Devon Energy Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. all lifted their full-year production outlooks this week. EOG said on May 5 that it plans to increase drilling as soon as crude stabilizes around $65 a barrel, while Pioneer has said it is preparing to deploy more rigs as soon as July.

Morgan Stanley said underlying data show drilling is already picking up in some counties within Texas’s Eagle Ford shale formation and the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico.

“Prices are triggering activity that could undermine the U.S. recovery, especially in 2016,” Morgan Stanley analysts including Adam Longson said in an April 27 research note.

The U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil for June delivery rose 45 cents on Friday to settle at $59.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices advanced 25%in April alone, the biggest monthly gain since May 2009.

The Permian will probably be the first basin to bounce back because it’s home to multiple producing zones stacked on top of each other, allowing drillers to tap oil at different depths with the same well, said David Zusman, managing director at Talara Capital Management, which handles $400 million in energy investments.

“There are multistacked pay zones and sweet spots across the basin that make economic sense,” he said by phone. “There’s more optionality associated with the Permian and more likelihood of completing those wells.”

The U.S. rig count may recover to 1,200 to 1,300 should prices rally past $70 a barrel, Allen Gilmer, chief executive officer of the Austin-based energy data provider Drillinginfo, said by phone on May 1. The total rose for three straight days in late April, he said.

“The service companies have responded very quickly in regards to dropping prices, and it has become very attractive, especially for companies with hedged positions, to come back right now before those hedges fall off,” Gilmer said. “We’re a few weeks from the bottom now. You’ll start seeing it build up.”

America’s Oil Boom is Sputtering Back to Life One Rig at a Time - Business World Online
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