Half of executives surveyed in the top U.S. oil and gas producing region sought government stimulus money as business activity tumbled to the lowest level in more than four years, a survey released on June 24 by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank said.

Oil prices and demand cratered this spring as stay-home orders to fight the COVID-19 pandemic collided with a short-lived price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that fed a global oil glut.

More than half of the 160 energy executives surveyed in the Bank's Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Louisiana region sought federal aid as a cushion against the economic downturn. Of those, 89% got help and another 4% were awaiting action, they reported. Most sought payroll protection money, which provides up to $10 million in low-cost loans.

Several used the cash to avoid job cuts while others said preventing private equity-backed firms from receiving aid was a problem for oil and gas firms.

"We reached bottom, and now we are trying to climb up," said one respondent. "We think there will be price volatility between $25 and $45 per barrel for the next three years, so capital spending will be slow for multiple years," another said.

Some 82% of executives surveyed curtailed production because of low prices. More than a third expect to resume some output by month's end. Another 20% would reverse shut-ins during July.

The crude oil price would have be between $36/bbl and $41/bbl to restore production, nearly a third said. Another 27% said prices would have to range between $41 and $45/bbl. U.S. oil settled at $38.01 on June 24.

A return to pre-pandemic levels of drilling and completion activity is expected in 2021 by 41%, with 39% believing it will be in 2022 or later.