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A supply shortfall is lurking should major oil companies continue to underinvest in exploring for new oil reserves, and this “chronic underinvestment” is setting the stage for the next super-cycle that could see oil prices soar to $150 a barrel or more, analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co said on Friday.
Investors clamoring for cash returns on their investments in lieu of increased capital expenditures may soon backfire, as new oil reserves may be unable to keep up with demand, according to Bernstein analysts.
“Investors who had egged on management teams to reign in capex and return cash will lament the underinvestment in the industry,” the analysts said in a note, as carried by Bloomberg.
“Any shortfall in supply will result in a super-spike in prices, potentially much larger than the $150 a barrel spike witnessed in 2008.”
“If oil demand continues to grow to 2030 and beyond, the strategy of returning cash to shareholders and underinvesting in reserves will only turn out to sow the seeds of the next super-cycle,” said Bernstein.
“Companies which have barrels in the ground to produce, or the services to extract them, will be the ones to own and those who do not will be left behind.”
Related: Permian Bottlenecks Come At The Worst Moment
After the oil price crash of 2014, oil companies slashed exploration capital expenditure. Now that oil prices have recovered, those companies are looking to reward shareholders with dividends and share buybacks to show that they have successfully come out of the price slump.
The lowered capex in exploration, however, is depleting the oil industry’s reserves and reserves replacement ratios. According to Bernstein, the reinvestment ratio in the industry is the lowest in a generation, which is setting the stage for a super-spike in oil prices; prices may even beat the record of $147 a barrel from 2008.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.