Feb 23, 2024 - Energy & Environment

The U.S. oil surge is set to take a breather this year

Daily U.S. crude oil production
Data:U.S. Energy Information Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals

Analysts see U.S. oil output growth slowing down this year.

Why it matters: The U.S. is by far the world's largest producer and a major exporter, which influences global market balances and prices.

The big picture: Production grew by roughly 1.8 million barrels per day over the past couple of years, Energy Department data shows.

  • But the consultancy Wood Mackenzie and DOE's independent stats arm both see companies collectively slowing their roll in 2024.
  • A Woodmac analysis sees 2024 output showing the effects of last year's inflationary pressures, consolidation, and declining rig activity.

How it works: "Offsetting base declines gets increasingly difficult at higher production levels, resulting in more production needed just to keep production flat," Woodmac's Utkarsh Gupta said in the note.

  • Your mileage may vary — Gupta notes that smaller private operators have cut rigs, but publicly traded companies will continue with growth plans.
  • However, public players remain focused on shareholder rewards.

What's next: Woodmac, looking at Lower 48 states onshore production, sees much lower growth this year and beyond.

  • That output surged by 900,000 barrels per day last year, defying expectations, but they see things slowing to 270,000 this year and 330,000 in 2025.
  • DOE's Energy Information Administration, looking at all U.S. output, doesn't see production regaining last December's latest all-time high of 13.3 mbd until February 2025.

What they're saying: "The ease in growth has gone, unless somebody comes up with a very dramatic new technical innovation," said Paul Horsnell, head of commodities research at Standard Chartered Bank, tells the Wall Street Journal, in a piece on the shale boom.

Reality check: Getting these look-aheads right is always dicey.

  • U.S. producers can respond relatively quickly to big price swings in either direction, and a supply disruption in the Middle East can't be ruled out, to name just some potential wild cards.
  • For now, however, the market looks well supplied this year as global demand growth appears to be slowing.

The bottom line: U.S. production remains around all-time highs, but 2024 could be something of a gap year when it comes to growth.

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