- High well-decline rates burning cash as investors stay away
- Smaller producers fight to survive, bigger ones cutting back
The promise of the Permian is shrinking.
Producers in the nation’s oil-rich shale basins are dialing back growth plans in the face of a growing panoply of problems that’s killing returns and keeping skeptical investors at bay.
The constraints are manifold: pipeline limits, reduced flow from wells drilled too close together, low natural gas prices and high land costs. But the most consequential is that shale-well production falls off at such a high rate — as much as 70% in the first year — that you need to keep spending cash on new wells just to maintain output.
In the five years since oil fell below $30 a barrel from more than $100, a resilient shale industry has established the U.S. as the world’s top oil producer. Now, cracks are opening in that survival tale, with companies ranging from EOG Resources Inc. to tiny Laredo Petroleum Inc. dropping their 2019 growth rates by 3 percentage points to more than 40 below last year’s gains.