January 03, 2019

Shales On It In 2019

Stratas Advisors

The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to reflect on the prior year. Data is fresh and watercooler contests are shaping up. As such, Stratas Advisors decided to conduct our own year-in-review, of sorts. To keep it fun, let’s kick everything off with a short game of “Shale On It”, a game of trivia where readers get a chance to answer 10 questions on 2018 unconventional resources. Some questions will be easy, others less so. Hopefully, you will find this entertaining and educational at the same time. We hope you enjoy our little game. Without further adieu, let the questions begin.

Production is near and dear to any prospector’s heart, so our questions start there. One note, while not all production numbers have been reported, enough data has been released to answer these teasers. Of the three major shales in the Permian (Bone Spring, Midland Basin Wolfcamp, and Delaware Basin Wolfcamp), which shale play saw the lowest oil production growth by volume? Which play saw the greatest increase in oil production by volume? By what percentage did Permian oil volumes grow in 2018? Traveling north to Oklahoma, what shale was a game changer for the SCOOP in 2018? Turning elsewhere, Proposition 112 threatened to derail what unconventional play in 2018?

Our line of questions will focus on drilling and field activity. During 2018, a play highlighted in this column was said to be on track for 13% production growth in 2019 due to longer laterals and higher proppant loading. What is the name of this play? What play covered in this column in 2018 gave attribution to higher rig counts for rising 2018 production? What is the average drilling times cited in this column for the Wolfcamp Shale?

Money is also near and dear to many a prospector. Hence, our remaining questions will query various economic areas. First up, what play was characterized in this column as having a majority of wells with breakeven prices below $50 per barrel? Last one, Stratas projected total Rockies spending for 2018 in this column earlier this year. What was the amount of total capital spending given? Hopefully, this proved to be an interesting 2018 year-in-review.

Redirecting our attention to 2019, this seems an appropriate time to identify some early signposts for the year ahead. First up, compliance to new round of production cuts. Starting in January, a new agreement for production cuts takes effect. Global suppliers agreed to reductions totaling 1.2 million barrels per day until midyear. While Stratas expects OPEC members and Russia to largely comply with the agreement, there are risks for noncompliance, especially if global producers perceive that their cuts are replaced by outsized shale production.

Number two, slowing growth in shale production, particularly slowing growth in the Permian. Swirling headwinds are expected to tamp down the rate of growth in 2019. These headwinds include ongoing labor shortages, infrastructure constraints, and flaring limits that are likely to continue through the first half of the year. Labor shortages appear most problematic as there are no ready answers to labor shortages for particular skills in short supply. Infrastructure challenges should see reprieve around midyear. Flaring limits have become an issue in multiple areas due mostly to infrastructure bottlenecks. Stratas estimates the rate of growth in areas like the Permian could be halved compared to 2018.

Number three, robust production growth in 2018 coupled with elevated demand risks led crude prices sharply lower in late-2018. Lower crude prices could further weigh on capital spending early in the year. Importantly, wells brought on early in the year carry a much greater weight on average annual production. Each well added to production adds another layer to the production stack. Hence, the more wells added early, the thicker the total stack in the second half. The thicker the production stack in the second half, the greater the chances for a higher overall growth rate. Conversely, the thinner the production stack, the slower the overall growth rate.

Number four, breakthrough catalysts. Stratas is aware of, and is monitoring, several science projects that could extend the economic limits of select plays. At present, Stratas does not anticipate emerging technology to commercially alter the outlook for production in 2019. That said, breakthroughs can and do happen. Hence, it is prudent to keep tabs on the sciences.


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