"Dream of U.S. oil independence slams against shale costs."

Bloomberg:  “The path toward U.S. energy independence, made possible by a boom in shale oil, will be much harder than it seems. Just a few of the roadblocks: Independent producers will spend $1.50 drilling this year for every dollar they get back.”“Shale output drops faster than production from conventional methods. It will take 2,500 new wells a year just to sustain output of 1 million barrels a day in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. Iraq could do the same with 60.
Consider Sanchez Energy Corp. The Houston-based company plans to spend as much as $600 million this year, almost double its estimated 2013 revenue, on the Eagle Ford shale formation in south Texas, which along with North Dakota is one of the hotbeds of a drilling frenzy that’s pushed U.S. crude output to the highest in almost 26 years. Its Sante North 1H oil well pumped five times more water than crude, Sanchez Energy said in a Feb. 17 regulatory filing. Shares sank 7 percent.
“We are beginning to live in a different world where getting more oil takes more energy, more effort and will be more expensive,” said Tad Patzek, chairman of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.
Drillers are pushing to maintain the pace of the unprecedented 39 percent gain in U.S. oil production since the end of 2011. Yet achieving U.S. energy self-sufficiency depends on easy credit and oil prices high enough to cover well costs. Even with crude above $100 a barrel, shale producers are spending money faster than they make it.
Companies are showing the strain. Chesapeake Energy Corp., the Oklahoma City-based company founded by Aubrey McClendon, reported profit yesterday that missed analysts’ forecasts by the widest margin in almost two years. Shares declined 4.9 percent.
….The U.S. oil industry must sprint simply to stay in place. U.S. drillers are expected to spend more than $2.8 trillion by 2035 even though production will peak a decade earlier, the IEA said. The Middle East will spend less than a third of that for three times more crude.
Shale wells can vary in price. Chesapeake will spend an average of $6.4 million each this year, according an investor presentation last updated yesterday. Houston-based Goodrich Petroleum Corp. will spend up to $13 million on some of its wells, Robert Turnham, president and chief operating officer, said in a Feb. 20 earnings call.
Bullish analysts and oil executives have reason to crow. While drilling in Iraq could break even at about $20 a barrel, output will be limited by political risks, Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup Inc. in New York, said in a January report. By contrast, the break-even price in U.S. shale is estimated at $60 to $80 a barrel, according to the IEA. The price of a barrel hasn’t dipped below $80 since 2012 and has stayed above $90 since May. Costs in the U.S. will continue to fall as drillers get faster and improve results, Morse said.
….U.S. oil production will average 9.2 million barrels a day in 2015, up from 7.4 million last year, according to the EIA, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department.
….Even with crude prices above $100 a barrel, U.S. independent producers will spend $1.50 drilling this year for every dollar they get back from selling oil and gas and will carry debt that is twice as much as annual earnings, said Ryan Oatman, an energy analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc., an investment bank in Houston.
By contrast, the net debt of Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest energy explorer by market value, is less than half of the cash earned from operations last year. The company will spend 68 cents for every dollar it gets back this year, according to company records and analyst forecasts compiled by Bloomberg.”