Jun 30, 2020 10:25 AM

News From the Oil Patch: With slowing demand, inventories reach all-time high

Posted Jun 30, 2020 10:25 AM


Kansas Common crude at CHS in McPherson dropped a quarter on Friday, to start the week Monday at $28.75 a barrel. That's down more than a dollar from a week ago, but three dollars higher than at the first of the month. Since the beginning of the year, Kansas Common is down more than $22 a barrel.

Two leading oil-price reporting agencies announced new crude-oil benchmarks to address what they call "the distortions of domestic infrastructure economics." S&P Global Platts and Argus Media are both trying to break away from  the traditional landlocked WTI benchmark, just over two months after U.S. crude futures prices plunged into negative territory for the first time in history. Platts American GulfCoast Select will reflect the value of waterborne light sweet crude supplied from the Permian Basin on major pipelines to the Gulf. Argus AGS  is also designed to reflect the growing importance of the U.S. Gulf Coast as a major export hub.

Baker Hughes reports 265 active drilling rigs across the U.S. Friday, which is down one oil rig from a week earlier. The count in Texas and Oklahoma were both up one, while New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado were each down one. Independent Oil & Gas Service reports two active rigs in eastern Kansas last week, which is unchanged from the week before. West of Wichita there are eight active rigs, up one.

There were no new drilling permits issued in the State of Kansas during the last week. For the last week in June, our total is 210 permits for drilling at new locations, compared to 455 new permits at the halfway point last year. Operators completed 25 wells last week across the state, nine of them west of Wichita including one in Stafford County. Independent Oil and Gas Service says that brings the year-to-date total to 517 completions compared to 750 at this time last year.

The government reported a build in U.S. crude-oil inventories of 1.4 million barrels. The Energy Information Administration says stockpiles reached an all-time high of nearly 541 million barrels, 16% above the five-year average for this time of year. The previous record was set in March 2017.  The Energy Information Administration says the U.S. is using 62% of its working storage capacity, with usage at Cushing down to 58%.

U.S. crude oil production increased last week by more than half a million barrels per day. The Energy Information Administration reported average output of 10.96 million barrels per day for the week ending June 19. A year ago, domestic production was over 12 million barrels per day.

EIA says oil and gas producers managed to set production records in the U.S. last year with fewer wells and fewer active drilling rigs. In a report last week, the government said one factor in the increase in drilling efficiency is the ability to contact more of a formation using horizontal drilling. In 2019, operators set records producing 12.2 million barrels per day of crude and 111.5 million cubic feet per day of natural gas. EIA cites data from Baker Hughes and IHS Markit showing the average rig count per month last year was 943 and the average count of new wells drilled per month was 1,400. Both were in the lower end of the range during the past 45 years, despite record production.

EIA reported a drop in imports to 6.5 million barrels per day for the week ending June 19. The four-week average is down more than eleven percent from the same period a year ago.

Oil-by-rail traffic dropped by 34 tanker cars last week to 9,402 cars. The Association of American Railroads says that's down more than 33 percent from the same week a year ago. 

Oklahoma based energy powerhouse Chesapeake Energy has filed for bankruptcy protection. Founded in 1989 with an initial $50,000 investment, Chesapeake lost an eye-popping $8.3 billion in the first quarter of this year, and has a current debt load of nearly $9 billion dollars. It has entered a plan with lenders to cut $7 billion of its debt and will continue to operate as usual during the bankruptcy process. The company was a leader in the fracking boom, using unconventional techniques to extract oil and gas. It became a colossus in the energy markets, eventually reaching a market valuation of more than $37 billion. The company closed Friday valued at around $115 million. Despite those problems, the company's CEO last year remained the highest-paid CEO in Oklahoma with $15.4 million in compensation. 

Colorado's governor on Monday named the new five-member commission which will craft and put into place major changes in the oil and gas industry there. A new state law requires regulators to shift focus toward the environment and public health.  Gov. Jared Polis named Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's current director, Jeff Robbins, to serve as chair of the new commission. He said Julie Murphy, chief of staff and senior policy adviser with the agency, will take over as director on July 1. The Denver Post reports the other four members of the commission have a mix of expertise in public health, the oil and gas industry, the environmental community and local government land use issues. They are: Priya K. Nanjappa (director of operations at Conservation Science Partners Inc.), Karin L. McGowan (deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment), Gunnison County Commissioner John Messner, who serves on the existing commission, will bring a local government perspective. Attorney Bill Gonzalez of Denver is a former land manager for Occidental Petroleum. Robbins will retain his director salary at $161,700 while the other four commissioners will be paid $150,000 annually in their new roles.

The oil and gas industry in Canada continues its slump, with rig counts at record lows and plummeting industry employment. Compared to last year, energy employment in Canada is down more than 25-thousand jobs, a decline of 14%. The drilling rig count in Canada fell 86% from a year ago to just 17 active rigs last week, an all-time low according to Baker Hughes.