Rising Rig Count Is Pushing OPEC To Breaking Point


Tyler Durden's picture

For the 9th straight week (and 35th of the last 37 weeks), the US oil rig count rose this week (surging by 14 to 631 – highest since September 2015).

The rig count continues to track the lagged WTI price

 

US Crude production has accelerated at a faster pace than the lagged rig count

 

And that is pushing OPEC to the breaking point:

  • *OPEC COMMITTEE SAID TO SEE COMPLIANCE WITH CUTS OF 106% IN FEB
  • *JOINT OPEC, NON-OPEC COMPLIANCE SEEN AT 94% IN FEB.: DELEGATES
  • *CUTS COMPLIANCE BY NON-OPEC ALONE SEEN AT 64% IN FEB.: DELEGATE

Who’s the sucker at that table?

As OilPrice.com’s Michael McDonald points out, the trend in the United States of accelerating oil production does not seem to be slowing down. Recent reports show that oil production from U.S. shale producers will increase in April, according to the Energy Information Administration. High market prices are currently being supported by OPEC cutbacks, and these higher profits are funding the growth of American drilling.

The release from the EIA predicts that net oil production will increase by 109,000 barrels per day in April. The seven major oil and gas basins that were included in the report will then have an output over nearly 5 million barrels per day collectively.

The monthly projections from the EIA have been climbing month after month since December. That month, 11 large oil exporting countries joined the supply cuts established by OPEC to control what they believed was an oversupplied market for crude oil.

In the United States, the main benefactors have been drillers at the Permian Basin, in Western Texas and southern New Mexico. The basin has been producing high volume since the end of 2016. The EIA expects the Permian drillers to see a gain of 70,000 barrels per day next month in their projections.

However, the Permian Basin is not the only United States site trying to capitalize on high prices. Drillers in southeast Texas, the Eagle Ford region, have also been ramping up production. Those drillers will amount for an increase 28,000 barrels per day in the EIA’s overall growth projections. Prior growth expectations for Eagle Ford producers was half on that number, at an increase of 14,000 barrels per day; the growth is not only steady, but is accelerating.

The EIA report for next month also shows a decline at several U.S. drilling sites. Take, for instance, the Niobrara region of Colorado and the Bakken Shale production in North Dakota. Both will experience declines of 11,000 barrels per day, and 10,000 barrels per day respectively.

The supply increases by the U.S. have capped any gains to be seen for OPEC nations from their cutbacks. This has been keeping crude futures within a tight range. On Monday, March 13th, U.S. crude ended at $48.40, a price that hasn’t been seen since before OPEC announced their cutbacks in December 2016.

These recent developments have led analysts to believe OPEC’s cutback policy is fated to end in the near future. It is clear that the United States has a sustainable means to regulate prices in the global oil market. Furthermore, the dynamics of U.S. outputs indicate that the country will not have any desire to participate in the cutbacks; U.S. law prohibits any such price controls. The United States will continue to threaten any gains to be had by OPEC.  

Saudi Arabia has been the leader in the cutbacks thus far, compensating for Russia’s hesitation with withholding supply. Historically, the kingdom has refused to participate in such cuts. However, under the tutelage of new oil minister Khalid al-Falih, they have exceeded their cuts far beyond the original OPEC deal. However, without total compliance, markets will remain unstable – regardless of how much the Saudis holdback.

These factors combined have led analysts to believe the OPEC deal will be forced to end, if only to end the profitability to U.S. growth and production.

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