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Number Of DUC Wells Plunges In Latest Sign Of Shale Distress

Shale rig

Over the past six months, the number of drilled but uncompleted (DUC) wells across the U.S. shale patch has been steadily declining in a fresh sign that shale producers have stopped the relentless drilling of wells.

The slowdown in drilling is expected to weigh on the fourth-quarter results of the world’s major oilfield services companies working on well completions in the key U.S. shale regions, Bloomberg reports, citing analyst forecasts.

The number of DUC wells in the seven key shale regions dropped to 7,574 in November, down by 131 from the October DUC well inventory of 7,705, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

According to Bloomberg estimates based on EIA data, the number of DUC wells dropped from a recent high of 8,429 in May 2019 to 7,574 such wells in November. This drop in just six months was the steepest fall in DUC wells numbers for the past three years, Bloomberg has estimated.

Analysts now expect the largest oilfield services providers to report in their Q4 earnings later this month continued decline in fracking and completions activity. This would be yet another sign that U.S. oil producers have slowed drilling as investors want returns from the U.S. shale patch, not crude oil oversupply.

Halliburton is expected to report a fall of 29 percent in its earnings in Q4, according to analysts who spoke to Bloomberg. Baker Hughes, which spun off its fracking services business, on the other hand, is seen reporting higher earnings.

The slowdown in U.S. drilling and completions services is expected to be in sharp contrast to recovering international and offshore oilfield services segments.

The world’s biggest oilfield services provider, Schlumberger, started flagging last year the evident slowdown in North America’s drilling growth. For Q3, Schlumberger said that international activity and its greater exposure to drilling outside U.S. shale drove its revenues higher, while North American revenues declined.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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