Schlumberger sees clear signs of balance

Published: Oct. 20, 2017 at 9:16 AM

Daniel J. Graeber

Oct. 20 (UPI) -- There are clear signs the global oil market is balanced, which would support higher oil prices and investments if sustained, the head of Schlumberger said.

"The reduction in global oil inventories in the third quarter is clearly showing that the oil market is now in balance, which is reflected in the upward movement in oil prices over the past month," Schlumberger Chairman and CEO Paal Kibsgaard said in a statement Friday.

Schlumberger is the world's largest oilfield services company and was among those that encountered headwinds last year when the price of crude oil dropped below $30 per barrel. For the three months ending Sept. 30, the company posted revenue of $7.9 million, up 6 percent from the second quarter and 13 percent year-over-year.

Schlumberger's first quarter revenue of $6.9 billion was down 3 percent compared to the previous term, but up 6 percent from first quarter 2016. The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, is up about 3.5 percent from the start of the year, trading near $57 per barrel early Friday.

Kibsgaard said his position on the market momentum was supported by a strong investment appetite in North America, but the "unprecedented" lows in the Persian Gulf and Russia point to future supply-side challenges. That only increases the need for strong investments, he said.

Extending a six-year relationship, Schlumberger in July acquired a 51 percent stake in Russia's largest drilling and services provider, Eurasia Drilling Co. Ltd., in a $1.7 billion deal. EDC holds one of the largest fleets of onshore drilling units in the world and described itself as the "premier supplier" of services to the Caspian Sea region, home to some of the larger oil and gas fields in the world.

The Russian driller said it expected to realize revenue of about $1.7 billion and capital spending of around $250 million. Apart from its Russian and Caspian Sea portfolio, the company does business in Iraq.

In North America, revenue for Schlumberger jumped 18 percent, with most of the gains coming from shale basins in the United States. The company over the last six months doubled the number of fleets deployed in U.S. shale.

The head of Russian oil company Rosneft said this week production from U.S. shale could spoil the balancing effort supported by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC economists in September said commercial oil inventories for the major industrialized economies was closer to a balance point, though there was still a 170 million barrel surplus to erase.

Kibsgaard said if the balancing trends continue in the right direction, the market would reach the point of recovery and prices could be supported further by the geopolitical risk premium brought on by tensions over North Korea, skirmishes in northern Iraq and U.S. President Donald Trump's resolve to unravel the Iranian nuclear deal.

"And while there is still some level of uncertainty around the exact timing of this industry recovery, we see a number of market factors and data points now emerging that make us increasingly positive and optimistic about the outlook for our global business," he said.

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