U.S. Shale Surge Should Worry Oil Markets, Conoco CEO Says


(Bloomberg) — ConocoPhillips said traders should be worried about strong oil production growth coming out of the U.S. this year and in 2023, potentially echoing the supply surges of the past decade.

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The Houston-based oil major upgraded its forecast for U.S. oil supply growth this year after surprise announcements in recent days by Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. to aggressively ramp up Permian Basin production. Output will now grow by as much as 900,000 barrels a day this year, Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said on a conference call Thursday. That’s more than a third higher than the Energy Information Administration’s forecast.

“I’m absolutely concerned about” it, he said. “If you’re not worried about it, you should be.”

READ: Exxon and Chevron Plan Permian Oil Surge as Peers Preach Caution (1)

Brent crude is up 17% this year to more than $90 a barrel as the world accelerates its economic recovery from Covid-19, inventories run low and concern that some OPEC countries are unable to fulfill their quota for increased production. The surge in prices means that U.S. shale, financially decimated during 2020, has quickly become incredibly profitable and is on course to generate record cash flows this year.

But a rebounding shale sector is a double-edged sword for global oil markets. Too much growth and it could prompt a response from Saudi Arabia and its allies, who have twice engaged in damaging price wars in the past decade after shale grabbed too much market share.

READ: U.S. Shale Takes On a Taboo Topic and Considers Raising Output

While most publicly-traded producers, which represent about 55% of U.S. production, are preaching discipline on growth, private companies and the supermajors are aggressively expanding. Exxon this week announced a 25% boost to its Permian Basin output, while Chevron plans to increase by 10%, but off a larger production base.

“We were a bit surprised at the strength of some of the numbers that we were hearing” in recent days, Lance said.

Shares of ConocoPhillips fell 1.5% to close at $90.87 in New York trading after earlier hitting the highest on record following the release of quarterly results.

(Updates with closing share price in final paragraph and adds chart.)

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