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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com

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OPEC Boosting Production To Keep Pressure On U.S. Shale

OPEC Boosting Production To Keep Pressure On U.S. Shale

Saudi Arabia has decided to turn up the heat on U.S. shale producers.

The de factor OPEC leader ramped up oil production in March despite the fact that it is pumping into one of the worst bear markets in years. A new report from the International Energy Agency found that OPEC increased oil production by an estimated 890,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in the month of March.

Iraq managed to boost output by 350,000 bbl/d and Libya also brought about 190,000 bbl/d back online. Related: Top 12 Media Myths On Oil Prices

But Saudi Arabia made up the difference, increasing output by an additional 390,000 bbl/d to 10.1 million bbl/d, a near record-high. The move to increase oil production in the face of a well-supplied market is likely a strategy to maintain market share and force higher cost producers – such as U.S. shale – out of the market.

And there is growing evidence that Saudi Arabia’s strategy is bearing fruit. U.S. rig counts have fallen below 1,000 for the first time since 2009. Rig count declines in the U.S. appeared to be slowing after several weeks of only a dozen or so rigs being taken off the market, but last week an additional 40 oil and gas rigs were removed, indicating that additional cut backs are in the works. Related: The Real Cost Of Cheap Oil

More importantly, the EIA now says that U.S. oil production will decline in May by 57,000 bbl/d, with cut backs coming from the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and the Niobrara Shales. Since more rigs will be removed from the shale patch in the weeks ahead, larger declines in total U.S. oil production can be expected for much of this year.

MonthlyChangeChartRelated: How Much Water Does The Energy Sector Use?

Saudi Arabia is keeping the pedal to the metal. It is actually increasing rig counts in order to keep production going full tilt. That means that oil prices could remain subdued for quite a bit longer. The painful adjustment will have to come on the shoulders of U.S. drillers. As the IEA notes in its report, “a faster-than-expected decline in North American unconventional supply” will lead to a “faster recovery” in oil prices.

Still, oil prices increased after the IEA report. Despite the flood of OPEC oil – which has surpassed its official quota – oil demand is set to pick up as consumers respond to lower prices. The IEA revised upwards its demand picture for 2015 by an additional 90,000 bbl/d, projecting an overall increase of about 1.1 million bbl/d over 2014.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com


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  • tim schmidt on April 15 2015 said:
    It appears that industry leaders understand what the Saudis are attempting to do, so what is the response going to be from these leaders? It seems to me that it would be prudent to protect our domestic industry, in the current world political environment, so that we don't lose another generation of industry professionals, like we did in the 80's and 90's. The petroleum industry in the U.S. is not controlled by national governments, like it is in a lot of the world, so we are at a definite disadvantage, as the U.S. would have to build a consensus of private producers to have any control over U.S. production. A tariff on all imports would get the Saudis attention.
  • Sam McDonald on August 23 2015 said:
    One has to wonder if the increased production isn't (in some ways) a stratagem to sway US citizens to support nuclear power in Iran by driving down oil prices for the American consumer... most of whom do not think in terms of the long range strength of American energy companies, but rather delight in lower gas prices.

    I mean, I like low gas prices as well as the next guy, and low transportation costs should translate into lower market prices all around, even though those reductions in market good's production costs always seem to slow to a trickle in coming down to the consumer level, compared to the geyser like rises when going up.

    Unfortunately, if the trend continues, and our domestic energy resources are not developed, the effects of future slow downs in production by OPEC will be worse than we have ever seen. If the slow down, or even SHUT down, comes when our energy infrastructure has bottomed out we would be left with reserves only, and a diminishing return in resupplying those reserves for the LONG time it would take to get our own companies re-manned, re-tooled, re-deployed, and re-supplying flowing petroleum to refineries.

    And that does not even take into account a weakened defense posture due to lack of readily available fuels at a time of possibly heightened predatory awareness involving those that would love to see the USA caught with it's energy pants down around the ankles.
  • Jay Jay on September 09 2015 said:
    A tale as old as time people. You can only spin the Pocahontas story so many different ways. Read "The Prize" by Daniel Yergin. Yamani championed the "Oil Weapon" against the West through the oil crisis approx 60s-70s. What comes next is probably what yall are guessing. In realist terms, what would you do if you were in OPEC's shoes? I would milk every dollar out of my seemingly abundant, yet limited supply. To do that, snuffing out the competition makes sense. What could possibly be offered to you to prevent you from dominating the market? Would the U.S. and her allies be willing to abandon Israel to satiate ME sentiments? Same questions... New date... That money that you're saving at the pumps over the next few years while our industries disintegrate from America's landscape; invest it while there is still over supply & who knows, UWTI might make you some cash once OPEC slashes production to drive prices up. Whether or not there is an actual shortage doesn't matter, prices will soar out of fear. China and India's monstrous appetite will test the integrity of the IEA and installed framework. As seen in the past... Unlike any other commodity in existence, oil had our allies turning their backs on us in the blink of an eye. Their hand is in the hilt of the oil weapon again, one thing will always be constant. "The divine law of supply and demand".

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