Are shale drillers too focused on debt reduction?

By David Wethe on 8/8/2021

HOUSTON (Bloomberg) –Shale drillers are showing so much financial self-discipline that next year’s oil-production forecasts may be in peril, according to Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.

The boutique energy bank warned it probably will reduce its 2022 outlook for onshore U.S. crude-output growth given the signals emanating from executives at publicly traded shale companies. After listening in to second-quarter earnings conference calls in recent weeks, Tudor is no longer confident the companies will lift production by 350,000 barrels a day next year.

“Color us pleasantly surprised, companies largely avoided the allure of talking about growth in 2022,” Tudor analysts said in a note to clients on Friday. “Management teams continue to walk the walk on capital discipline.”

Shale explorers are funneling record free cash from this year’s oil rally into share buybacks, dividends, debt reduction and even acquisitions rather than drilling new wells.

“Ultimately, if U.S. growth is headed lower and demand remains on track, our confidence continues to increase that 2022 crude will average $65-$70” a barrel, the analysts wrote. West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, rose 1.4% to $69.09 at 10:20 a.m. in New York.

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