OPEC's decision last week to not cut production was a direct assault on U.S. shale production, but its not likely to stop the U.S. shale boom. Across the board, U.S. shale production growth will slow at lower prices in 2015, but is still expected to remain high. Energy research consultancy IHS estimates U.S. shale production will grow by 700,000 b/d at an average price of $77 per barrel in 2015. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts WTI crude oil prices will average $78 per barrel in 2015.
The shale oil boom has been made possible by advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, putting the U.S. in a prominent position on the world stage once again for crude oil production.
The Eagle Ford Shale alone accounts for more than 1.5-million barrels of crude oil per day, and Texas and North Dakota, which encompasses the most active areas of the Bakken Shale, currently make up almost half of the nation’s crude oil supply.
In the Middle East, production costs are less than $30 per barrel on average, according to the Norwegian firm Rystad Energy. OPEC is betting as prices fall, higher relative costs for U.S. shale production, will put the brakes on growth. But in certain "sweet spot" areas for drilling in the Eagle Ford and Bakken Shale in North Dakota, new wells can be drilled profitably, even if crude falls to $25 per barrel, according to ITG Investment Research Inc., cited in a recent Bloomberg article.
Ultimately, nobody has a crystal ball to predict futures prices for crude oil, but with WTI now below $70, some operators in the Eagle Ford may consider scaling back their drilling programs in certain areas in 2015, and wait to see what will happen with crude oil prices.