Mark Papa, the former chief executive officer of EOG Resources Inc. who helped create the shale industry more than a decade ago and pioneered drilling in shale for crude oil, said drillers are “grievously wounded” as crashing crude prices exact their toll, describing the situation as the worst downturn he has seen since 1986 and one that would “leave bodies and companies all over the place”.
“I think you will see a much more stable and more balance-sheet focused industry emerge from the ashes, but it’s going to be really, really ugly to get through this valley,” said Papa, who is now a partner at private equity firm Riverstone Holdings LLC.
During a panel discussion at the IHS CERAWeek event in Houston on Tuesday, Papa stated that he predicts Shale explorers will be “decimated” in coming months amid a wave of restructurings and bankruptcies, fallout from the 70 percent drop in oil prices since mid-2014. Low prices probably will hang on for another 16 to 24 months before supply cuts lead to a rebound, he said.
“From those ashes, you will see the companies that survive, a lot of them will be grievously wounded financially, and the management teams that come out of it will be a lot more conservative going forward,” Papa said.
During his 14-year tenure leading EOG, Papa watched over its transition away from shale gas production to the then-untested use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to extract crude from shale. EOG’s reputation for innovation and efficiency earned the label “the Apple of oil.”
On the long-term, Papa said U.S. shale drillers had the prospect of becoming the leading producers in global markets.
“The future is pretty bright for U.S. production, and I could envision the U.S. could be producing 13 to 14 million barrels a day of crude oil,” by 2022, he said. “The future could be a lot brighter than people think.”
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi, industry veteran of seven decades, came to Houston assuring that it was not the Kingdom’s intention to drive U.S. shale rivals to extinction.
“I’ve seen oil at under $2 a barrel and at $147, and much volatility in between. I’ve witnessed gluts and scarcity. I’ve seen multiple booms and busts,” he told the annual gathering of some 2,800 energy executives and professionals.
“These experiences have taught me that this business, and this commodity, like all commodities, is inevitably cyclical. Demand rises and falls. Supply rises and falls. Prices rise and fall.”