Thursday, 2 August 2018

Reflections on the depletion of US shale oil


Extracts from an article by Dmitry Orlov


Meanwhile, I would also like to share with you three observations that I found particularly interesting.

1. Shale oil fields in the US are depleting at an ever-accelerating rate. The most recent drop is half a million barrels per month per day. The Red Queen Syndrome—having to run faster and faster just to stay in one place—is in full swing.


2. With oil prices now higher than they have been in quite a while, you'd expect that the US shale industry would be making money, or at least breaking even. Well, no, it's still hemorrhaging money. We still hear sporadic noises about the US shale industry becoming "more efficient than ever." But what use is efficiency if it just results in more efficient financial losses?

3. The US is currently the world's largest oil producer and has become an oil exporter. But it still isn't producing enough to satisfy its own oil addiction. It depends on oil imports for another reason: shale oil is very light. It is most useful for making gasoline, which is a small-engine fuel. It is not useful for making diesel, jet fuel or heavy oil, which is what industry runs on.

This brings up a number of questions:

With decline rates this high and rising, how long will it take for US shale oil to crash?
 
Once it crashes, what will happen to the mountain of debt it has left behind?
 
Since shale oil and shale gas drilling are related, what will this do to the currently fashionable dream of competing against Gazprom in Europe?
 
Trump dreams of repatriating offshored industry by imposing tariffs. But industry takes energy, and given that this is what's happening with energy, isn't he just whistling past the graveyard?

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