The crude oil producer-group, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, in November 2014, adopted a laissez faire output policy which essentially removed caps on members’ supply quotas. Driven in the main by Saudi Arabia and some Gulf producers, the policy was a thinly-veiled attempt to drive the higher-cost (mostly North American tight oil) producers offline and ensure a good share of the global oil market. On a year-on-year basis, petroleum liquids additions by North American tight oil producers rose from 44,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2006 to a staggering 1.7 million bpd in 2014, according to a report by Rystad Energy. Though this was largely responsible for the massive global supply overhang ─ which exceeded 2.5 million bpd in 2015 ─ the response by top producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia as well as Iran and Iraq among others, unleashing their massive supply capacities, only served to exacerbate the condition. Global crude oil prices plummeted to multi–year lows. In what was loosely termed a ‘‘sheikh-versus-shale’’ duel, this bid for better market share exacted a devastating toll on the duelling spigots.
North American Tight Oil Producers
When global crude oil prices were well-above US$100 per barrel, tight oil producers in North America, which in the main, had breakeven oil prices in the US$65 – US$90 per barrel range, stayed profitable. However, when falling prices tested US$26 per barrel and even stayed low for months on end, many of these producers were forced offline, and quite a few, permanently. Data from the law firm, Haynes and Boone LLP, show that in the period from January 2015 to 14 December 2016, there were 114 bankruptcy filings in the North American upstream sector and with a total debt of more than US$74 billion. For many of the ‘‘oil-rigged’’ states and provinces, taxes on proceeds from oil and oil-related businesses formed a major proportion of revenue; for some, tax proceeds from such businesses exceeded US$5 billion in 2014. Continue reading