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Dan Doyle

Dan Doyle

Dan Doyle is president of Reliance Well Services, a hydraulic fracturing company based in Pennsylvania.

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Forget The Noise: Oil Prices Won’t Crash Again

Forget The Noise: Oil Prices Won’t Crash Again

Oil rising to $60/bbl is displeasing some people, particularly the shorts. Some of the more extreme –those calling for oil in the $20’s – have wisely fallen silent. Others, like Goldman Sachs, who a few months ago had set their flag in the 30’s, have unfortunately not gone so silent. They recently moved their flag into the 40’s but they continue to talk a lot. A better strategy – though one that would require some humility — would be to stop talking and listen.

Recent and compounding data will soon wash away the walls of worry erected by the experts. Four consecutive weeks of inventory draws, each one larger than the last is irrefutable proof that a 60% decline in the rig count means something. Related: How Long Can OPEC Maintain Its Current Strategy?

Shorts will downplay this trend and point to last week’s surge in US production. But this could have had as much to do with sales as it did with production. I don’t fully understand all the criteria used by the EIA in assembling weekly data, but I do know what some well-heeled operators have been up to. Those who could afford to store oil in leasehold tank farms began selling long held inventory when oil touched $60. Wall Street would call this arbitrage, but to an oil operator this is known as calling in a load. This is a one-off event but when you factor it into last week’s 2.8 million bbl draw, you will see a clear path towards large inventory draws in the very near future.

Well site storage levels will decrease as will production. The X-axis on all decline curves marks time, Y is volume. The IP (initial production) rates right after a completion may be high with shale wells, but there is a very steep precipice that immediately follows. As we move through time, more and more wells are slipping down this curve that bottoms out at 15% to 20% +/-of initial production rates. And this only takes a handful of months. The flat section a year or so out is known as the tail. The tail is good money, but the upfront flush is what pays for wells.

The rig count went into free fall after OPEC’s Thanksgiving Day announcement. Frack jobs continued, with some sand suppliers booming right through January of this year. But by February, the free fall began there too. That was 4 months ago, which means the sled ride down the decline curve is on. Related: Kazakhstan To Become U.N. Nuclear ’Fuel Bank’

Another factor to consider is that the EIA weekly production numbers are estimates. As oil producing states begin to report real numbers in 60 to 90 days, you will see markdowns.

Inventory draws of 4 million plus, which will begin shortly, may finally see some of the media saturated shorts stop pontificating for a moment and possibly even consider a short period of quiet introspection. Maybe. Or they may stick to the newest argument—the “fracklog”.

Drilled, though uncompleted wells are nothing new. They’re a common occurrence when mid stream infrastructure is not yet in place or when there is the need to secure a lease. There is also not much of a worry that wells will have to be completed due to state regulations requiring so.

No one is going to rush into their back log of completions either. Everyone in the business is holding cash tightly—really, really tight. And no one is going to run to the debt markets to finance a burst of activity. Completions will occur, but they will occur methodically. For service companies, frack logs will create work but they will not create a boom.

Then there is the issue of TV commentators using the term “efficiency”. Do your best to ignore this. There is no discernible difference between a July 2014 frack job (when oil was around $100) and one that is scheduled for today—other than the fact that the service company is more appreciative and the operator is cheaper.

Ignore the noise and stick with the data. Most walls of worry erected in the last few months have been built on clay. Most have or will fall, particularly within the US and Canada. That said, outside of North America there are real concerns. Chiefly, there is the upside of Saudi production potential and there is increasing Iraqi, Libyan and Russian production. Those are the big issues.

But on balance, these concerns seem to be offset by the wars, skirmishes and terrorist strikes that are increasing in the area, not declining. Watching monthly production out of Libya has the same relative curve as a kid on a pogo stick. And the Chinese economy at 7% growth in 2015 is a bigger consumer of oil than it was at 10% in 2010. Note too, that Asian demand is increasing and Europe is starting to look like it has put in a bottom. Related: Expect The Recent Oil Rally To End Badly If OPEC Doesn’t Cut

U.S. demand is also better than predicted. The “tax break” that every commentator on every cable station detailed to death is finally showing up in the data. But rather than appearing in retail and hospitality sales as most predicted, it is showing up in oil and gas consumption. Go figure, cheaper gas means people are driving more. Hard to believe, but I think a lot of us missed that one too.


The big story in oil prices was the rig count on the way down. The big story on the way up will be inventory. Look for WTI to make a move towards and maybe into the $70’s as clarity strikes the market. Look too for more walls of worry but remember to consider the source.

By Dan Doyle for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • lenb on June 02 2015 said:
    Spot on my friend....reach me on twitter if u wish to talk.....what a breath of fresh air!
  • Lee James on June 02 2015 said:
    I think the big story is not with U.S. unconventional oil extraction. Even OPEC is not seen as a major variable. The big story is world instability -- political instability more than economic instability. Isn't it just a little interesting that so much of our oil supply comes from areas that are either actively warring, or where sanctions reduce oil-trade?

    Great, instability in foreign countries will raise the price of oil. Expensive U.S. fracking and deep-water extraction will become more cost-effective. We're back in business! What a business.

    Oil is risky business in so many ways. We need to turn up our efforts to transition away from oil, no matter where we get it.
  • Doogie on June 03 2015 said:
    @Lee James
    You go first on the transition from oil. Reduce or eliminate all the goods and services that contain petrochemicals from your personal footprint.

    Come back and report on your results when you feel you have made a difference.
  • Graham on June 03 2015 said:
    Well said sir.
  • Shane on June 03 2015 said:
    Very nice. I'm tired of the likes of Goldman Sachs, who lack credibility based on their history, that speculated ridiculous low prices, and even more for those that continue to talk.

    Well done, sir.
  • Banster Cartel on June 03 2015 said:
    The futures market has been paying attention to only inventory drop at Cushing. problem is, everyone is pushing all these excess inventories to places where it falls under no report. Mainly in Canada.
    Storing this stuff will burn a hole in someones pocket eventually. Meanwhile the question is how long before storage actually runs out.
    I don't think we will know that till it happens.
    I can see $20 oil in the futures. Good chance before summer is out unless you can see a 5% increase in consumption for the next year worldwide, someone is going to loose money storing it.
    But not right now while everyone is paying attention to numbers that have no meaning. Pretty simple Production vs Consumption = (+/-) real storage = someone should stop playing strip poker because they will look pretty laughable in public.
  • Tom on June 03 2015 said:
    Most commentators don't seem to be aware of the tremendous backlog of drilled but uncompleted wells in the Permian and the Eagleford and all the other plays with lots of rig activity. Some of these companies were waiting up to six months or longer to get a well fraced. As they work through this backlog the effects of the declining rig count won't be felt for a while. The last half of 2016 should tell the tale.
  • Nick Kelly on June 03 2015 said:
    Anyone who thinks China is growing at 7 % is in a fantasy world. See CSIS report "Is China's Hard Landing Already Happening"
    The China wall has already caused coal ( thermal and met) and iron ore to crash 50% and rising. This happened a year before the oil crash.
    China's growth in the last quarter of 2014 was flat or negative.
    Their insane real estate bubble makes the US one look like a blip. One city with a pop of 1.1 million has 1 million properties listed.
    The frantic buying of real estate in London, San Fran, Vancouver etc. etc. is a sign the elites are preparing for the worst.
    It is an open question whether the regime can survive the unwinding of the largest bubble in history.
  • Keith on June 04 2015 said:
    This is one of very few sane articles about supply demand and oil price. As you say, it is difficult to figure what the EIA uses for the background to its production estimate. Other data sets, such as the DMR from N Dakota, or the TRC from Texas show that production dropped in January already and has wavered since then.

    Another way to look at it is to check numbers for petroleum products moved by rail as given by the American Association of Rail. Numbers are down 13% from Q4 2014. The volume transported is similar to that in May 2014. Crude transport by rail is predominantly from the Bakken play. Absent some major change to pipeline infrastructure, these numbers suggest Bakken production in May 2015 is very similar to that in May 2014 - in other words down 14% from the peak in December 2014. Assuming the Bakken is an indicator for the shale industry in general, and assuming 3.6 M bopd of shale production at peak, then US shale production is down approximately 500, 000 bopd from the peak in December 2014.
  • joe rice on June 05 2015 said:
    Of course it wont crash again.. As long as the price is set by gambling attic speculators and not real buyers or by the real supply and demand like it was before the year 2000 when only only real buyers and sellers could trade, it will always be 5x higher than what it should be.. 80% of the market are betters who can buy all the oil they want and only put 10% down, which of course creates a false demand that the 99.999% not in the oil business have to pay for. Naturally, their going to look for any fart in the Middle East gamble the price up... There is way to many speculators to keep the price way down. Its assenine that a commodity dictating the entire stability of the economy can be set by betters and be the direct result of everyone else getting a 125.00 a month gasoline expense but hey, as long as Wallstreet wins, who cares about mainstreet.. Gotta love trickle up economics
  • SChalice on July 06 2015 said:
    WTI down over 7%...

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