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US shale oil production declines continue to slow

Highlights

US shale oil production declines over the past year and a half are forecast to slow to 20,000 b/d in December, down from a 30,000 b/d drop in November, US Energy Information Administration data showed Monday.

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December's shale oil output is estimated to be at 4.498 million b/d, compared to 4.518 million b/d in November, the EIA said in its monthly Drilling Productivity Report.

This compares to a decrease of 118,000 b/d to 4.949 million b/d over the same time period a year ago. Production peaked at 5.618 million b/d in March 2015, according to the EIA.

But crude oil production in two of the four the main producing shales areas covered by the report, the Permian in West Texas and New Mexico, and Colorado's Niobrara are forecast to increase production, while Texas' Eagle Ford, and the Bakken Shale of North Dakota and Montana are expected to see production fall.

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The Permian is expected to increase production 27,000 b/d to 2.065 million b/d in December, while the Niobrara is forecast to raise output by 2,000 b/d to 404,000 b/d.

The increases in those two regions would be offset by drops of 33,000 b/d to 978,000 b/d and 14,000 b/d to 918,000 b/d in the Eagle Ford and Bakken Shales, respectively.

Greater output in the Permian has been expected by analysts due to the dramatic run up in rigs over the last six months.

The Permian had 218 rigs operating as of last week, which is up by 86 from when the rig count bottomed out there in April this year, according to Baker Hughes.


PRODUCTIVITY GAINS ACROSS THE BOARD


Efficiency gains have been a mainstay of the shale boom in the US, with producers able to squeeze out more oil per well and that does not look to slow down in December, the EIA data shows.

The biggest increase in new-well oil production per rig is forecast for the Niobrara, which should increase by 35 b/d to 1,177 b/d.

This is likely behind the forecast for greater production as the shale's rig count has remained fairly steady this year bouncing slightly above and below the 16 rig active last week.

Despite productivity gains in the Eagle Ford and Bakken, they were not enough to offset the overall decline in production in those shales.

Eagle Ford's new-well oil production per rig is forecast to grow by 27 b/d to 1,307 b/d, while in the Bakken it is predicted to increase 22 b/d to 949 b/d, according to the EIA.

Permian productivity is expected to increase 7 b/d to 611 b/d in December.

--Benjamin Morse, benjamin.morse@spglobal.com
--Edited by Richard Rubin, richard.rubin@spglobal.com