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Ron Patterson

Ron Patterson

Ron Patterson is a retired computer engineer. He worked in Saudi Arabia for five years, two years at the Ghazlan Power Plant near Ras Tanura…

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Are We Nearing A Transition Point In Oil Production?

Are We Nearing A Transition Point In Oil Production?

Rystad Energy, an independent oil and gas consulting services and business intelligence data firm in Oslo, Norway, has online, a wealth of information concerning upstream oil production projects and costs. Some of it is a bit dated but some of their charts date from late 2015.

The two below Rystad charts were published by CNN Money on November 23, 2015.

(Click to enlarge)

This is overall or average cost, not marginal cost. It cost Canada $41 to produce a barrel of oil but only cost Russia $17.20. I guess that is why Canada is cutting back but Russia is not.

(Click to enlarge)

Here is the breakdown between capital expenditures and operational expenditures. Why would the United Kingdom’s operational expenditures be two and one half times those of Norway? After all, they are both drilling basically the same oil field. Related: Genel Producing Oil For $1 Barrel, Investors Still Cautious

So why is not the price of oil having a more dramatic effect on production? Well it is, it just takes a while. Here are some plans from about a year and a half ago, when the price of oil was much higher.

Rystad published the two below charts in their US Shale Newsletter in January 2015 but the data dates from the 4th quarter of 2014, just as the price of oil had started to drop.

At that time Bakken (ND) had a break even price of $53 while Eagle Ford oil had a break even price of $42 and Eagle ford condensate a break even price of $50.

The below chart, from the same newsletter, assumes $90 a barrel oil.

(Click to enlarge)

Shale oil, at the time, had an average break even price of $65 a barrel, which would have given them a 45% internal rate of return and a payback time of only 2 years. It is amazing how much things have changed in just a little over a year.

But by October 2015 things had changed dramatically.

Global offshore oil production in aging fields will fall by 10 percent next year as producers abandon field upgrades at the fastest rate in 30 years, in the first clear sign of output cuts outside the U.S. shale industry, exclusive data shows.

A drop in oil prices to half the level of a year ago has forced producers to slash spending and scrap mega projects that can take up to a decade to develop, but they are also taking less visible steps to cut investment in existing fields that will have an immediate impact on global supplies.

There have been few signs of how cost cuts of around $180 billion will impact near-term production until now. They could erode the glut that has forced down prices, and help balance global production and demand by the middle of next year or earlier, Oslo-based oil consultancy Rystad Energy said.

Data provided exclusively to Reuters by Rystad shows a sharp decline in investment to upgrade mature offshore oil fields in order to arrest their natural decline, in what is known as infill drilling.(Graphic: link.reuters.com/xaz75w)

The above chart shows the decline in infill drilling due to previous drops in the price of oil. The data is from the Gulf of Mexico, Southeast Asia and Brazil. The decline in infill drilling in 2009 was the largest… until now. The first half of 2015 saw the largest decline in offshore infill drilling in history. Related: Despite Huge Losses Oil Companies Reluctant To Shut In Production

In three major offshore basins — the Gulf of Mexico, Southeast Asia and Brazil — infill drilling dropped by 60 percent between January and July this year compared with the same period last year, according to the Rystad Oil Market Trend Report, whose data is based on company data and regulatory filings.

For example, according to the data, in the Gulf of Mexico, infill drilling on mature wells dropped from 149 wells between January and July 2014 to a total of 61 wells during the same period this year.

Based on this trend, Rystad Energy estimates that global offshore oil production in mature field will decline next year by 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), or 10 percent, to 13.5 million bpd from 15 million bpd in 2015.

The above chart is change per operator, just in the GOM. And this was just in the first half of 2015 when the price of oil averaged about $56 a barrel. What is it now when the price of oil is over $20 a barrel lower? Related: Conventional And Vertical Well Analysis


Well, just since June Wood Mackenzie says the latest figures show that the amount of deferred capital spending on projects awaiting approval has almost doubled from $200bn to $380bn, with 2.9m barrels a day of liquids production now not due to come on stream until early in the next decade.

Global liquids cost curve (October 2015)

(Click to enlarge)

*The break-even price is the Brent oil price at which NPV equals zero using a real discount rate of 7.5%. Resources are split into two life cycle categories: producing and non-producing (under development and discoveries). the latter is further split into several supply segment groups. The curve is made up of more than 20,000 unique assets based on each asset’s break-even price and remaining liquids resources in 2015.

Source: Rystad Energy UCube September 2015

What the above chart tells me is that it now costs a lot more to produce a barrel than it once did. And… unless crude oil hits at least $60 a barrel soon a lot more projects will have to be cancelled. But… all that being said, I think it is now obvious that oil production will drop, rather dramatically, beginning sometime in 2016. And that drop will lead to a rise in the price of oil, at least to $60 a barrel and likely higher.

That is unless some black swan event happens. That could be a collapse in several economies of the world… or a collapse of the economy in one country, China. In other words, it is a given that production is going to decline. So if demand stays constant, or rises, then the price of oil will definitely rise. We know what is going to happen to supply. We have no idea what is going to happen to demand. But if it is business as usual in the oil patch, the price of oil is bound to go up.

By Ron Patterson

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Leave a comment
  • Ron Wagner on February 09 2016 said:
    Great article! I think we have a lot of companies that will continue to produce though, and it will be awhile before things shake out.

    IMHO the best thing for the world would be to transition to natural gas for transportation. It is cleaner , more abundant and possibly cheaper.
  • Dalan McEndree on February 09 2016 said:
    Thanks for pulling this information together, it's very useful and helpful.
  • Russian Jew on February 09 2016 said:
    Can the reality be more different from what all those "experts" are writing? Look at the data - so who is losing and who is winning? I think the outcome of Oil World War is clear.
  • R on February 10 2016 said:
    You ain't seen nothing yet. Saudi Arabia is about to REALLY turn up the heat on North American oil.

Leave a comment

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