America's Shale Oil Boom Grinding to Halt as U.S. Forecasts Drop

(Bloomberg) -- The shale oil boom that turned the U.S. into the world’s largest fuel exporter and brought $3 gasoline back to America’s pumps is grinding to a halt.

Crude output from the prolific tight-rock formations such as North Dakota’s Bakken and Texas’s Eagle Ford shale will shrink 1.3 percent to 5.58 million barrels a day this month, based on Energy Information Administration estimates. It’ll drop further in July to 5.49 million, the agency said Monday.

With the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries refusing to curb its own oil production, U.S. shale is coming under pressure to re-balance a global supply glut. Everyone from EOG Resources Inc., the country’s biggest shale-oil producer, to hedge fund manager Andrew J. Hall to banks including Standard Chartered Plc have forecast declines in U.S. output following last year’s plunge in crude prices. The nation was still pumping the most in four decades in March.

“Production has to come down because rigs drilling for oil are down 57 percent this year,” James Williams, president of energy consultancy WTRG Economics, said by phone Monday from London, Arkansas. “Countering that is the fact that the rigs we’re still using are more efficient and drilling in areas where you get higher production. So that has delayed the decline, and it’s making us nervous about when exactly it’s going to happen.”

West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery fell to $58.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 2:11 p.m. local time. Futures have rebounded about 30 percent since March 18 amid speculation that U.S. oil drillers had laid down enough rigs to curb supply.

Fewer Rigs

Despite the U.S. oil rig count falling for 26 straight weeks, domestic crude production surged 126,000 barrels a day, or 1.3 percent, to 9.53 million in March, the most since 1972, Energy Information Administration data show.

“We do not believe that the direction of U.S. oil output has changed,” Standard Chartered analysts including Nicholas Snowdon said in a research note June 1. “In our view, U.S. oil supply is still falling, and it is likely to carry on falling for the rest of this year.”


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