Averaging the input has the "call" at about right at $50/bbl. Oil broke $51/bbl yesterday because of the outbreak of fighting in Yemen. I expect that to settle back down a bit soon enough. Meanwhile, settling of fighting in northern Iraq, or a nuclear deal with Iran, would drive prices even lower.
Meanwhile, don't look for things to get better in the near future. Chris Tomlinson notes that US shale oil (and gas) drillers are probably full of bluster more than reality in talking about finding efficiencies in shale drilling costs. He notes that for US shale oil and gas:
The full cost of producing oil and natural gas at a representative sample of U.S. companies, including capital spent to build the company and buy assets, is about $80 per barrel of oil equivalent, according to a new study from the Bureau of Economic Geology's Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas. The analysis of 2014 corporate financial data from 15 of the top publicly traded producers, which I got an exclusive look at before it's published next week, determined that companies will have a hard time recovering the capital spent that year and maintaining production unless prices rise above $80 a barrel.
Now, things aren’t total doom and gloom, at least not at already-producing wells, as Tomlinson explains:
Low prices, though, won't mean that producers will shut in existing wells. Many of these same companies can keep pumping to keep cash coming into the company and they can still collect a 10 percent return above the well's operating costs at $50 a barrel of oil. They just won't make enough money to invest in new wells or recover the capital already spent.
That leaves this as the bottom line:
This harsh reality of what it will take to keep the shale revolution going shows how vulnerable it is to competition from cheap overseas oil.
Of course, the “shale revolution” is a lot more bubbly than a lot of its proponents want to publicly admit.
As I have blogged previously, before the bursting of the latest oil bubble, the Eagle Ford play in Texas was expected to peak in 2016, as analyzed by an outside expert. The bubble surely shoved that back to 2017 and most likely to 2018, but it’s still a sobering thought.
Anyway, on prices? I'd take the Saudi guesstimates as solid — oil won't hit $100/bbl again for five years. There's flat demand and ready supply cooked into the books for years ahead.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, are you paying attention? Probably not; it's hard to extract one's head from being buried in a hole in the sand, ostrich-like.
Chris goes on to note an extended shale oil drilling slump will also affect natural gas prices because many shale oil wells are "wet gas" wells, producing various hydrocarbon condensates. Dry gas wells will be the worst off in the new environment.