Echoing the criticism of too much hype surrounding U.S. shale from the Saudi oil minister last week, a new report finds that shale drilling is still largely not profitable. Not only that, but costs are on the rise and drillers are pursuing "irrational production."
Crude oil prices are probably already high enough to spark a rebound in shale production. The IEA says that in the third quarter of 2016, the U.S. shale industry became cash flow neutral for the first time ever. That isn’t a typo. For years, the drilling boom was done with a lot of debt, and the revenues earned from steadily higher levels of output were not enough to cover the cost of drilling, even when oil prices traded above $100 per barrel in the go-go drilling days between 2011 and 2014.
Many oil companies had trimmed their budgets heading into 2015 to deal with lower oil prices. But the rebound in April and May to $60 per barrel from the mid-$40s suggested that the severe drop was merely temporary.