Oil prices are set to rise later this year and trade in the $70-$100 range over the next three to five years as supply growth remains limited and OPEC+ continues to restrict output, according to a top executive at the largest pure-play U.S. shale producer, Pioneer Natural Resources.
Higher labor and material costs are slowing U.S. shale production growth, Pioneers's Executive Vice President Beth McDonald told Reuters at RBN Energy's crude export conference in Houston this week. In addition, shale investors want more returns and a limit on spending, McDonald added.
Higher costs are constraining production growth and eating into margins despite the fact that oil prices haven't moved lower than $70 per barrel for an extended period of time over the past year and a half.
"That squeeze in the margin is really keeping U.S. E&Ps (exploration and production companies) from moving forward in a significant way" despite OPEC's efforts to push up prices, McDonald told Reuters.
"In general, you'll still see those modest (production) growth rates and those low reinvestment rates because we continue to focus on returning cash to shareholders," the executive added.
The focus on returning cash to shareholders has combined with cost inflation and mixed messages from the Biden Administration to drag down U.S. oil production growth in recent months. Related: Russia Says It Will Study Iran’s Plan To Create A Natural Gas Hub
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) upgraded this week its outlook on U.S. crude oil production growth, expecting gains of 720,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year, up from a previously forecast growth rate of 640,000 bpd.
Shale executives, however, are not so optimistic, and some believe peak Permian oil production is five or six years away as drillers exhaust the prime acreage.
American oil executives already said in early March that OPEC is once again the most influential force in global oil supply – and will be so for the foreseeable future – now that U.S. shale production growth is slowing.
Pioneer's chief executive Scott Sheffield told the Financial Times earlier this year, "I think the people that are in charge now are three countries — and they'll be in charge the next 25 years."
"Saudi first, UAE second, Kuwait third."
Meanwhile, peak Permian oil production is just five or six years away, according to Sheffield, who attributed this forecast from March to expectations that drillers will have exhausted by then the prime drilling acreage in the top shale-producing basin.
Permian production could peak around 2030, Danny Wesson, Diamondback Energy's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said at Hart Energy's Super DUG event last month.
"[By] the end of the decade… plus or minus a couple of years, you might see the Permian peak and start plateauing," Wesson said.
"The longer it takes us to get there, the longer it will plateau and run flat. But the faster we get there, it will decline faster," Diamondback's senor executive added.
"I think end of decade is a good time to think about [flat or declining production], but you can't count the Permian out."
The most recent Dallas Fed Energy Survey for Q1 showed at the end of March that oil and gas expansion in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana – home to the biggest shale plays, including the Permian – stalled amid surging costs and worsening outlooks.
In comments to the survey, one U.S. executive at an E&P firm noted, "The Energy Information Administration put out its Annual Energy Outlook this week, and it forecasts that oil production from the U.S. will be flat for the next 30 years. We should probably inform them of the collapse in shale production we are going to see in under five years."
Another executive said,
"The administration's policies will continue to affect domestic natural gas and oil production negatively. Oil and gas prices will soar in the next few years, and we'll be at the mercy of nations that hate us."
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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