[Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the April 2020 edition of E&P. Subscribe to the magazine here.]
Limited takeaway capacity, industry concerns over regulatory restrictions and low commodity prices are combining to suppress production growth and operator enthusiasm in the Rockies and Bakken region.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) monthly “Drilling Productivity Report,” oil production in the Bakken remained mostly flat in 2019, while the gassier Niobrara saw only modest gains in natural gas production. The EIA’s report revealed oil production in the Bakken hovering around 1.4 MMbbl/d, while gas production in the Niobrara held steady at about 12.5 Tcf/d.
Although natural gas breakevens in the Rockies and Bakken are higher than commodity prices, Enverus expects any production gains operators might see will likely come from their oil plays.
In its recent “FundamentalEdge Report: Rockies & Bakken in Focus,” Enverus reported that the low-growth outlook will likely remain throughout 2020, but better days could be on the horizon as planned pipeline expansions come online sometime next year.
“Like all U.S. basins, the Rockies and Bakken are expected to slow down due to lower prices and pipeline takeaway constraints, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some glimmers of hope,” said Jesse Mercer, senior director of crude market analytics at Enverus. “Operators that continue to scrutinize cost savings, efficiencies and prioritization of crude oil over gas will fare better than others.”
While most companies are reporting plans to maintain fl at production in the Rockies and Bakken, some are planning growth, such as Devon Energy, EOG Resources, Marathon Oil and Hess. According to its third-quarter 2019 investor report, Devon is planning to potentially double its Niobrara activity this year.
Jay Graham is back after the successful sale of WildHorse Resource Development to Chesapeake Energy with a new venture—this time in the Permian Basin.
The acquisition of Noble Energy makes Chevron the No. 2 U.S. shale oil producer behind EOG Resources Inc. and gives it nearly 1 Bcf of international natural gas reserves close to growing markets.
The promise of future returns lured investors, including a wave of acquisitions from 2016-19. Now, many of those shale deals are financially unworkable due to low oil prices.