Jun 10, 2020 - Energy & Environment

A reshaped U.S. oil sector awaits

Illustration of a sad oil spill.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The domestic oil sector that emerges from the pandemic-fueled price and demand collapse will be different than what preceded it. And more signs arrive every day.

Driving the news: ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance, in a newly posted interview with IHS Markit's Dan Yergin, says "shale will come back."

  • But he adds that there will be "pressure on companies to confine their capital program, maybe not grow dramatically as they were before."
  • "I don't think the access to capital in the investor community, at least in the public side of the business, is going to be as robust as it was over the last decade," he said.

What's next: Asked whether U.S. production will return to its pre-crisis peak of roughly 13 million barrels per day, he replies, "If I were a betting man, today I would say it would be pretty difficult."

  • He sees a potential return to "encroaching on" 12 million, but cautions "a lot of that depends on the shape of this recovery.”

Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal feature looks at how the distribution of shale production will change as production and demand recover, with the Permian Basin — the heart of the now-interrupted boom — becoming even more central.

The big picture: With the economics of shale expected to remain tough for a long time, companies will "concentrate on their richest targets," they report. From their piece...

  • "The Permian Basin is set to return to growth by next year and continue through 2030, consulting firms Rystad Energy and Wood Mackenzie estimate."
  • "By contrast, the Eagle Ford region of South Texas is unlikely to top its average 2019 shale-oil output until 2024, and then will decline, the firms said."
  • WSJ also notes that Rystad doesn't see oil production from the prolific Bakken region in North Dakota reaching its 2019 average until 2026.

Go deeper: Oil faces tough road back from coronavirus

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