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U.S. shale oil still facing pressure

Supply-side risks still linger on the minds of many in the energy market.

By Daniel J. Graeber
U.S. shale oil still facing pressure
Market analysis finds production from shale oil basins in the United States off by as much as 8 percent from last years as drillers cut spending in response to the slump in crude oil prices. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

DENVER, May 3 (UPI) -- Oil production in key U.S. shale formations declined and, while a recovery in crude oil prices is an incentive, risks do remain, market analysis finds.

Platts Analytics finds oil production in the Eagle Ford shale basin in Texas, one of the more productive formations of its kind, declined about 3 percent in March for the eighth straight month of loss. In the Bakken shale in North Dakota, output was down 2 percent from February and on par with the general loss in production.

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"In 2015, producers in both the Eagle Ford and Bakken realized tremendous efficiency gains through cost reductions, quicker drill times and higher initial production rates," Taylor Cavey, an analyst for Platts, said in an emailed statement. "However, given the lower-for-longer commodity price environment, the extent to which further efficiencies can be reached is questionable."

A monthly drilling report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found total U.S. crude oil production is on pace to decline 2 percent for April. Output from two of the more lucrative shale basins in the country -- the Bakken reserve area in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford formation in Texas -- are showing steady declines, the monthly drilling report found.

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Year-on-year, output from Eagle Ford is down 21 percent, while North Dakota production is lower by 8 percent, Platts found.

Crude oil prices are down about 20 percent from this time last year as supply-side pressures build against a lackluster global economy. Prices in April soared, however, on expectations the market was returning to balance. The price for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price, was around $44 per barrel and Platts found that, for most producers, anything above $40 was generally positive for future development.

Cavey said there's an incentive, however, for most producers to stand pat until further momentum builds, though there remains some concern that a market recovery may add to supply-side pressure.

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"Capital budgets [for energy companies] have been reduced on average an additional 40 percent from last year," he added. "Producers can only stretch themselves so far until they are forced to fold."

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