The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released another EIA Drilling Activity report that raised its estimates for shale oil production without considering the realities on the ground. According to the report, the EIA says that U.S. shale oil production will increase by 111,000 barrels a day to 6.55 million barrels a day in February next month, and that production in the Permian Basin will surge by 76,000 barrels a day.
Yet, producers working hard in the shale patch still think the EIA is overestimating production. Those overestimations in output is one reason oil supply in the United States has fallen like crazy. While drilling in the Permian Basin has turned into Perma-mania, we must be very careful to not overestimate the numbers.
Tsvetana Paraskova of OIL PRICE reports that, “According to Wood Mackenzie, signs have started to emerge that the relentless intensification of drilling leads to diminishing returns, and pumping twice as much sand as usual into Permian wells and drilling longer laterals doesn’t deliver commensurate volumes of oil.”
Still, Woodhack suggests that drillers could "change the laws of physics" and that these signs of setbacks may actually be growing pains.
She goes on to say that in addition, drillers may soon start to test the Permian region’s geological limits. And if E&P companies can’t overcome the geological constraints with tech breakthroughs, Woodhack has warned that Permian production could peak in 2021, putting more than 1.5 million bpd of future production in question, and potentially significantly influencing oil prices. She also writes that U.S. drillers will have to contend with the drive in the shale patch to heed investor concerns and prioritize profits overproduction, and not “drill themselves into oblivion,” as oil tycoon Harold Hamm has warned.
The North Dakota number may also be high as reports are coming out that they may have to slow production. The Houston Chronicle reports that shale drillers “fearing sanctions by the state, some North Dakota oil drillers have begun cutting output to control the amount of natural gas that's being burned off at well sites and wasted as a byproduct of crude production, industry and state officials say." Rebounding oil prices and technology advances in western North Dakota's oil patch have goosed crude production, spurring unanticipated record levels of natural gas that comes with it, according to Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.
The state's gas-gathering and processing capability is 2.1 billion cubic feet daily. In November, the latest figures available, the industry was right at that ceiling -- with record 2.09 billion cubic feet (0.06 billion cubic meters) of natural gas produced daily. Pipeline capacity is adequate to move the natural gas to market, but it's the lack of gas-gathering and processing facilities in between that's the problem.
"That forces some drillers to restrict oil output at some wells to meet gas flaring rules," said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. "We don't want to be restricted by the state," said Ness, whose group represents hundreds of companies. So, if they cut back growth from North Dakota, oil production may flatten out. At the same time Hedge Funds are not being scared out. Record hedge funds are staying long. The supply-tightening is giving the bulls more staying power and instead of a major pullback when we hit upper resistance, we instead get a minor pullback and consolidate. Those looking for a major break in oil prices most likely will be disappointed; unless we get a black swan event.
It has been a demand-driven rally that has kept RBOB Gas unseasonably strong. AAA reports that gas prices rose four cents on the week landing today’s national average at $2.53 yesterday. According to the EIA, gasoline demand increased 164,000 bbl on the week to register at 8.8 million. The demand measurement is the highest demand for the first EIA report of January since 2011. The demand increase is a contributing factor to this week’s higher pump prices.
“The EIA’s gasoline demand measurement is higher than any week in January last year,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “If demand continues to climb, motorists are likely to see pump prices increase too, paving the way for even more expensive fill-ups. This month’s average is already 19-cents more than last January.”