“Oil output will respond very slowly to a drop in oil prices,” Bjornar Tonhaugen, vice president for oil and gas markets at Rystad Energy, wrote in a report released this week. “Markets may even be oversupplied next year more than previously thought.”
The decrease in oil and gas prices may have sent oil company stocks tumbling, however oil experts have claimed that the American energy production is not slowing down.
Even after a drop of as much as 25 percent in oil prices since early summer, several government and private reports say that it would take a drop of $10 to $20 a barrel more — to as low as $60 a barrel — to slow production even modestly.
On the downside, taxes and royalties on oil will decline, potentially cutting into the finances of oil-producing states like Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma and North Dakota. And it will continue to put pressure on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut output to support prices, as well as cause economic pain to big producers like Russia, Venezuela and Iran.
Slowing American oil production is like slowing a freight train moving at high speed. The current production of 8.7 million barrels a day, the highest in nearly a quarter-century, is more than a million barrels a day higher than it was only a year ago. Most companies make their investment decisions well in advance and need months to slow exploration because of contracts with service companies. And if they do decide to cut back some drilling, they will pick the least prospective fields first as they continue developing the richest prospects.
The Energy Department this week reported that only 4 percent of shale production in North Dakota, Texas and other states needed an oil price above $80 a barrel for producers to break even on investments. One reason is that improved efficiencies in hydraulic fracturing and other modern production techniques have increased the output of each new well month after month in recent years.