Sharp drop expected in global E&P spending in 2015, study says

Global capital expenditures for oil and gas exploration and production projects are expected to drop 17% to $571 billion in 2015, according to Cowen and Co.’s annual study of 476 oil and gas companies’ E&P capex budgets. The study assumes an average West Texas Intermediate price of $70/bbl.

Global capital expenditures for oil and gas exploration and production projects are expected to drop 17% to $571 billion in 2015, according to Cowen and Co.’s annual study of 476 oil and gas companies’ E&P capex budgets. The study assumes an average West Texas Intermediate price of $70/bbl.

The decline represents the third largest in global expenditures since 1985. The largest was the 33% plunge in 1986 when oil prices plunged below $10/bbl.

The study acknowledges, however, that current crude prices are hovering around $50/bbl (OGJ Online, Jan. 8, 2015), indicating there is significant downside risk to those projections. If oil prices average $60/bbl, US E&P spending would drop 30-35%.

Based upon the expectation of $70/bbl WTI, international E&P spending is expected to decline at least 15%, while spending under a $55-60/bbl average price could decline by as much as 20%. International E&P spending typically holds up for longer and declines by less than North American spending during oil spending down cycles, the study notes.

Spending is expected to hold up in the Middle East, where small increases will come from Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC), Kuwait Oil Co., Saudi Aramco, and Qatar Petroleum.

The seven supermajors are estimated to be down by 9-15% due in part to the completion of or reduced spending on LNG projects.

Based on the expectation of $70/bbl WTI, 186 companies that were surveyed are planning an average decline in expenditures in the US of 22% to $119 billion. US declines are likely to be the most severe in vertical drilling, in some of the secondary plays, and on the periphery of some basins, the study says.

Drilling in the cores of the Eagle Ford, Permian, and Bakken will hold up surprisingly well, according to the study. Its model, however, indicates that in the event of a 20% drop in spending that the rig count could decline 550 units from the fourth quarter average. The study also anticipates completions to fare better than drilling in 2015.

US companies with the biggest budget cuts in 2015 compared with 2014 are SandRidge Energy Inc. at 63%, Whiting Petroleum Corp. at 41%, Continental Resources Inc. at 40%.

In Canada, meanwhile, 110 companies surveyed are estimating a decline of 24% in the region. Encana Corp. is expected to slash its spending 47% from 2014, while Husky Energy Inc. is expected to reduce its budget by 37%.

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