“OPEC needs to fulfil its duty – none of us wants $80 to $100 oil” – Scott Sheffield

OPEC’s meetings this week are mostly dominated by the heads of member countries’ national oil companies, but at least two top officers from American shale companies are also in attendance.

In the run-up to OPEC’s meeting in late 2016, when cutting production was on everyone’s minds, U.S. shale CEOs were all for the idea. OPEC reducing its output would allow global markets to rebalance, and perhaps give U.S. shale companies enough breathing room to increase production themselves.

Eighteen months later, OPEC appears to have done exactly this, with oil prices near multi-year highs and U.S. oil production setting all-time records. Now OPEC is meeting once again, to consider the possibility of reversing the production cuts, at least in part.

There’s a sweet spot between $60 and $80: Sheffield

Invited U.S. Shale Brass Weigh In Ahead of OPEC Meeting

Scott Sheffield

U.S. shale executives attending the meeting are, perhaps surprisingly, in favor of the idea. Scott Sheffield, chairman of Permian producer Pioneer Natural Resources (ticker: PXD) explained his reasoning in depth, examining what could happen if OPEC did not increase output.

“OPEC needs to fulfil its duty,” he said, “They need to put together some kind of deal to phase into the market. None of us wants $80 (per barrel) to $100 oil, that’s too high. There’s a sweet spot between $60 and $80.”

Sheffield is concerned about production from Iran, Venezuela and Libya, where supply may come off the market in coming months. Sheffield estimated the three countries could reduce production by a combined 1.4 MMBOPD. This, he said, could drive oil to $100 if OPEC does not intervene.

$100 oil may seem like a good thing for shale companies, and it would be for a time, but Sheffield believes in the long term it would hurt the industry. “One hundred dollars isn’t going to help OPEC, it’s not going to help us in West Texas. It will hurt demand, it will move investment to alternative energy around the world,” he said.

John Hess says shale isn’t going global

Bakken producer Hess Corporation (ticker: HES) CEO John Hess discussed a slightly different topic—investor sentiment and the ability of unconventional operations to move internationally. Investors are currently prioritizing returns over growth, and most companies have responded to this desire with drilling plans that are less ambitious than those seen before the downturn.

Invited U.S. Shale Brass Weigh In Ahead of OPEC Meeting

John Hess

“Investor sentiment in the last year has markedly changed,” Hess said. “It’s gone from, ‘drill, baby, drill,’ to ‘show me the money.’” This means growth potential for U.S. production is reduced, which must be considered by OPEC in making its decision regarding cuts.

Hess was also pessimistic on the large-scale potential of shale. “There’s a worldwide obsession with shale. In the U.S., it’s irrational exuberance, and in other countries it’s irrational fear… We don’t see much prospect for shale going global.”

Several countries plan to try though, with unconventional operations currently underway in Argentina, Oman and China.

Originally, plans for the OPEC meeting involved more extensive participation by U.S. shale, with a total of five executives attending.

In addition to Hess and Sheffield, OPEC originally had scheduled Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, Centennial Resource Development (ticker: CDEV) Chairman and CEO Mark Papa, and ConocoPhillips (ticker: COP) Chairman Ryan Lance.


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