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Crashing Oil Prices Force U.S. Oil Firms To Cut Budgets

As oil prices continue to tank amid the oil price war and the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. oil producers are announcing capital spending and dividend cuts by the hour as many of their operations are unsustainable and deep in the red at $30 a barrel WTI Crude.

Apache Corporation said on Thursday it was slashing its 2020 capital investment plan to $1.0 billion-$1.2 billion from a previous range of $1.6 billion-$1.9 billion. Apache will also stop pumping oil in the Permian in the coming weeks to limit “exposure to short-cycle oil projects.” The corporation will be reducing activity in the North Sea and Egypt, too.  

Not only will Apache reduce operations, but it will also slash its quarterly dividend per share from $0.25 to $0.025, effective for all dividends payable after March 12, and will use the cash saved to strengthen its financial position.   

Murphy Oil Corporation is maintaining its commitment to dividend on Thursday but slashed its capital expenditure plan for 2020 by 35 percent. Murphy Oil will release operated rigs and frac crews in the Eagle Ford, with no operating activity planned for the second half of 2020.

Devon Energy announced on Thursday an immediate decrease in capital spending by nearly 30 percent compared to its previous 2020 capital plan.

Earlier this week, Occidental Petroleum Corporation said it would slash quarterly dividend to $0.11 per share from $0.79 per share, effective July 2020, and significantly reduce capital spending to between $3.5 billion and $3.7 billion, from $5.2 billion to $5.4 billion, and will implement additional operating and corporate cost reductions.

Chevron is also looking to review its spending plans after the price collapse, the U.S. supermajor told Reuters on Monday, becoming the first oil major to admit it is reviewing CAPEX amid the oil price rout.

Most shale oil wells drilled in the United States are unprofitable at current oil prices, Rystad Energy warned earlier this week.

Commenting on the impact of the oil price plunge on U.S. shale, Wood Mackenzie analysts Ann-Louise Hittle, Fraser McKay, Tom Ellacott, and Rob Clarke said on Tuesday:

“Because there’s no fat left to trim in 2020, the cuts to development activity are necessarily fast and brutal, made possible by tight oil’s unique flexibility. The response from explorers and producers in the Lower 48 has been dramatic. Some reduced rig counts even before Monday’s markets opened.”  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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