May 15, 2020 - Energy & Environment

U.S. oil producers to see bigger capital spending drop than 2008

Ben Geman, author of Generate

Data: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

A Dallas Fed report helps put the oil industry's response to the price and demand collapse into historical context. They find that U.S. producers' capital spending will decline by at least 35% in the second quarter en route to an even steeper annual decline.

Why it matters: That's bigger than declines in the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the oil price collapse in the mid-2010s (check out the chart above).

  • The number of drilling rigs deployed, which is a metric of current activity and future output, has greatly slid.

Don't forget: Prices also remain far below profitable levels for wide swaths of the distressed sector in the U.S. and elsewhere.

  • A separate Dallas Fed survey of energy companies in their region found that prices needed to cover operating expenses at existing wells averaged $23 to $36 per barrel.
  • And the surveys from the Dallas Fed and the Kansas City Fed (which covers producing states including Colorado, Wyoming, and Oklahoma) show prices are nowhere near what's needed to profitably drill new wells.

Meanwhile, job losses are piling up. The Houston Chronicle reports that another 1,000 job cuts in the industry were announced in Texas just this week.

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