Latest data from the US shale patch is sharply schizophrenic. Output continues to break new records – the total for seven key shale basins broke 8mn b/d for the first time in December with overall US crude output just shy of 12mn b/d. The US Government’s EIA forecasts further rises with crude output to average 13mn b/d for 2020, 18mn b/d including NGLs (MEES, 15 March). The key Permian basin is slated to hit 4mn b/d for the first time this month, according to the EIA’s latest Drilling Productivity Report.

But shorter-term the picture is not so rosy. US crude output flatlined at 11.9mn b/d over November-February (see data, MEES, 15 March). Indeed, steady output is something of an achievement given that drilling activity has slumped: the US oil rig count was 834 on 8 March, a 10-month low. This meshes with the picture painted by services firms in their Q4 earnings calls: Paal Kibsgaard, CEO of the largest, Schlumberger, predicted “it’s going to be a fairly tough year in North America” (MEES, 25 January). (CONTINUED - 2068 WORDS)