Concerns over expanding US shale oil

Concerns over expanding US shale oil

Giacomo Maniscalco
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US oil companies are expanding shale oil extraction operations, a decision that contrasts with OPEC cuts

In the USA, oil companies are intensifying their shale oil drilling operations. After three months of declining output, the country has opted to significantly increase shale oil production in February by 40,750 bpd, for a total of 4,748 million bpd, according to the calculations of the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). The decision is motivated by oil prices which on international markets have reached their highest levels in 18 months. Prices have been rising since January thanks to output cuts called for in an OPEC agreement which an increasing number of countries (OPEC members and others) are adhering to. Increased US shale output is therefore threatening to cancel out any benefit from the OPEC cuts. According to WTRG Economics analyst James Williams, that is ''bearish for oil and a concern for OPEC''. He went on to add that, ''If maintained, the expected February production gain means production from the shale plays will be up at least a half million barrels per day by the end of the year''. The OPEC deal calls for member states to cut production by 1.2 million bpd and for non-members to cut 600,000 bpd. In spite of evident concern, not everybody is alarmed. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih said that he was confident that the increased output would not bridge the gap left by the OPEC cuts. Al-Falih went on to assert that US producers ''will find that they need higher prices'' in any case to meet rising operating costs. He concluded by stating, ''shale is on the road to recovery, but it will be a long road''. Today WTI opened 22 cents up at $52.70 a barrel, while Brent increased 23 cents to $55.70. In the currency market, with two days until Trump’s inauguration, the US dollar faces trouble. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the president-elect said the dollar ''is too strong'', laying most of the blame on China for devaluing the US currency. ''Our companies can’t compete with them Chinese companies now because our currency is too strong. And it’s killing us'', Trump stated. The dollar is losing 0.6% against the yuan at 6.8592, and the major European and Asian exchanges are losing shares. The weak dollar is makig the purchase of crude oil on international markets less onerous, driving up the price.