RBN Energy: impact of crushed oil and gas prices on production economics.
The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub contract for January delivery hit a 22-year low yesterday (December 10, 2015) of $2.015/MMBtu, 46 % below year-ago price levels. But US gas production has been humming along near 73 Bcf/d, more than 3.0 Bcf above a year ago and about 1.0 Bcf below the all-time high earlier this year. It’s a similar story for crude oil, with oil prices closing at $36.76/Bbl yesterday, but production hanging in there above 9 MMb/d. This is a testament to lower drilling service costs and producers’ ability to improve drilling productivity. But can productivity gains and drilling costs keep up with continually lower commodity prices? Today we look at how productivity gains and falling drilling costs are impacting producers’ rates of return.
In Part 1, we told the productivity story: how productivity improvements made production a formidable force in the market in 2015 in spite of substantial headwinds from low oil and gas prices, drilling budget cuts and falling rig counts. We showed how rig counts came off dramatically in correlation with prices this past year. But gas production volumes didn’t follow the rig count down. That’s because producers very quickly learned to do a lot more with a lot less.
To quantify drilling productivity in the context of gas, we showed various industry metrics, including drilling time, wells drilled per year per rig, 30-day average IP rate and IP additions per rig per year. We looked at these metrics over time for EOG Resources in the Eagle Ford play, which showed that EOG is now drilling wells in one-third the time it took in 2011, drilling three times more wells per rig each year, and producing double the volume from each well in its first 30 days. And all of that translates to five times more volume produced for every rig than in 2011. So there are fewer rigs operating but those rigs are much more prolific than they were in 2011 or even a year ago.
Using data from the Energy Information Administration’s Drilling Productivity Report, we then looked at average production per rig for entire basins, and found that EOG’s productivity gains are no exception. Productivity improvements are occurring in varying degrees across all the major shale basins, and for both oil and gas rigs.