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North American oil, gas debt maturities to spike to $68.1B in 2022, Moody's says

North American oil and gas industry debt maturities will spike to $68.1 billion in 2022 as lenders become more comfortable with higher-risk segments like oilfield services, according to a report from Moody's.

Moody's said in an Oct. 5 report that the industry as a whole will see a total of about $240 billion of debt mature in the years through 2023, with drillers and midstream companies accounting for a combined $165 billion. Because crude oil prices stabilized in the back half of 2016, rebounding debt issuance indicates "the market has a higher-than-average ability to absorb speculative-grade [exploration and production] debt," while almost two-thirds of midstream sector debt maturities through 2023 are investment grade, the ratings agency wrote.

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One midstream company with non-investment grade credit that is due to mature during that period is Southcross Energy Partners LP. It risks defaulting after it terminated a planned merger with American Midstream Partners LP.

The oilfield services sector, meanwhile, has the highest refinancing risk in the oil and gas industry. A quarter of its $32 billion of debt maturing through 2023 is rated at or below Caa, which Moody's defines as subject to very high credit risk. In the report, Weatherford International Ltd. and Transocean Ltd. together accounted for nearly half of that $8 billion of debt.

Oilfield service providers are still laboring to recapture losses from the oil price collapse that began in 2014, but the quantity of recent low-grade credit issuances is a sign that banks are reopening their doors to struggling segments of the energy business.

"The low-rated companies ... issued almost no debt from mid-2015 to mid-2016, when most issuance came from investment-grade or relatively strong Ba-rated speculative-grade oil and gas companies," the report said. "However, since then lower-rated debt (B or Caa or lower) has been issued in the market, indicating that access improved for low-rated companies."

Still, the category of Caa debt only comprises about 13% of oil and gas industry maturities through 2023, according to Moody's.