Based on recent estimates of production costs, roughly one-third of current production could be uneconomical if prices stay around US$60, notably high-cost production in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico (Chart 4). More than two-thirds of the expected increase in the world oil supply would similarly be uneconomical. A decline in private and public investment in high-cost projects could significantly reduce future growth in the oil supply, and the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would have limited spare capacity to replace a significant decrease in the non-OPEC supply.
A rash of bankruptcies is likely. That, in turn, would bespatter shale oil’s reputation among investors. Even survivors may find the markets closed for some time, forcing them to rein in their expenditure to match the cash they generate from selling oil. Since shale-oil wells are short-lived (output can fall by 60-70% in the first year), any slowdown in investment will quickly translate into falling production.
Wood Mackenzie, a research consultancy, estimates that the ‘break-even price’ of American projects is clustered around $65-70, suggesting many are vulnerable (these calculations exclude some sunk costs, such as building roads). If the oil price stays at $70, it estimates investment will be cut by 20% and production growth for America could slow to 10% a year. At $60, investment could drop by as much as half and production growth grind to a halt.
Peak oil will be the point in time when more oil is produced than has ever been produced in the history of the world, or ever will be in the future of the world. It is far more likely that this period will be thought of as a time of an oil glut rather than a time of an oil shortage.
In 2015 we expect oil and gas upstream investments to decline $100 billion or 15%. And the big chunk of it will come from the high cost areas. And this will have implications, not perhaps immediately but for 2016-17. And if this comes together with a stronger demand this will have strong implications for the price and the markets.