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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The shale sector is entering a "great compression" that could bring a "deep consolidation" as companies collectively face hundreds of billions of dollars worth of write-downs on their assets, a new Deloitte analysis finds.

Why it matters: The report shows how depressed oil prices stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic are slated to take a big toll on the sector, which was already struggling with debt and weak cash flow even before the crisis.

By the numbers: "Challenging oil market conditions could prompt the shale industry to impair or write-down the value of their assets by as much as $300 billion — with significant impairments expected in Q2 2020," the report finds.

  • 31% of shale operators are "technically insolvent" when U.S. oil prices are at $35 per barrel, while another 20% are "stressed." Prices are currently in the $39-per-barrel range.
  • Deloitte says roughly 27% of shale oil-and-gas companies are good acquisition targets for oil majors and large independent producers, while many others would be "superfluous," or too risky for buyers.

What's they're saying: Deloitte analyst Scott Sanderson said in a statement alongside the report that "selective" consolidation can help better position the distressed industry,

  • "Especially as the energy transition moves forward, investment in big data, advanced digitalization and sustainability measures can be of paramount importance to long-term survival and success," he said.

Go deeper

Amazon defends working with oil companies to reach its zero-carbon goal

Kara Hurst in Seattle.

Partnering with oil and gas producers is necessary for Amazon and other companies to achieve their climate goals, the tech giant's chief of sustainability, Kara Hurst, said during an Axios virtual event on Thursday.

The big picture: Amazon aims to hit carbon neutrality in 2040, 10 years earlier than the Paris climate accord. The company plans to reach its goal in part by helping companies develop climate-friendly technologies through a $2 billion venture fund. The first recipients were announced on Thursday.

Updated 47 mins ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by the Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

NYT: Biden won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.