World Oil

HOUSTON (Bloomberg) – U.S. shale oil production will expand at a “modest rate” over the next 18 months even as prices touch multiyear highs, according to BloombergNEF, leaving OPEC in a powerful position as the world cries out for more barrels.

Producers are using cash flow to pay down debt and reward shareholders rather than invest in new drilling, BNEF said in a report published Wednesday. Yet demand for energy is rising around the world. U.S. crude futures reached a seven-year high this week after OPEC and its allies declined to alter their supply agreement to raise output.

West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 1.7% to $77.61 a barrel at 11:01 a.m. in New York. Prices have risen 60% this year.

U.S. production will reach 12.1 million barrels by the end of next year, up 440,000 barrels a day from the end of 2021, according to BNEF’s base case scenario. That’s lower than its pre-pandemic record high of 13 million from 2019. Under a bull scenario, in which prices average $80 a barrel from now until the end of 2022, BNEF sees production rising to 12.4 million barrels a day.

The sole driver of next year’s growth will be the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, with all other regions flatlining or declining.

“U.S. oil producers remain reluctant to increase production meaningfully,” BNEF analyst Tai Liu said in the report.

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