Shale Industry Shake-Up

Shale Idustry Loses Billions
Shale Idustry Loses Billions

Prolonged low crude prices are hitting the shale industry....hard.

Related: Crude Prices & the Stock Market: A Wild Ride

A new report generated by data company, FactSet, says that capital spending in the shale industry exceeded cash from operations by about $32 billion in the first six months of the year and is quickly approaching the deficit of $37.7 billion reported for the whole of 2014.

U.S. shale oil producers have been reporting steep improvements in the productivity of their rigs but even this cannot save them from the financial constraints they face. According to the EIA, U.S. oil production fell in May and June, with some analyst predicting continued drops, as companies’ are unable to pay for more drilling and well completions.

Companies have made up for their shortfall by selling shares and borrowing cash to stay afloat, but there are signs this is drying up. During the first quarter of 2015, E&P companies sold $10.8 billion of shares compared to only $3.7 billion in the second quarter and the total for July and August is $1 billion.

Edward Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup, said that there would have to be a shake-up in the US shale oil industry to separate the good companies from the bad. “Just as it drove the industry to spectacular growth, the financial sector is going to drive the industry to consolidate and contract,” he said.

Next month, banks will do a regular review to determine how much they're willing to let oil companies borrow. Some predict that lenders might cut oil-company credit lines by as much as $15 billion. This would be a huge adjustment leaving companies strapped for the necessary cash pay for equipment and personnel.

Since April, oil production in the major shale plays has decreased sharply, with the Eagle Ford being the biggest loser. The Eagle Ford has lost 300,000 barrels a day and other major plays also experiencing a decrease include the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the Utica Shale in Ohio and the Niobrara in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming. Total production from shale plays fell by 350,000 barrels.