(Bloomberg) -- The final wave of the Permian Basin oil boom is expected to add the equivalent of Iran’s total output to global production. That growth, however, will look more like a trickle than a gusher — taking years to ramp up and underscoring OPEC+’s grip on the market for now.
America’s largest oil basin, covering swaths of West Texas and southeast New Mexico, will expand output by 40% until hitting its peak of 7.86 million barrels a day in 2030, according to a Bloomberg survey of four major forecasters. While that would be bigger than all OPEC nations except for Saudi Arabia, the outlook comes with a lot of caveats.
First, there’s the slow pace of expansion: There’s no huge increase expected this year or next, so the Permian won’t do much to ease the world’s current problems with energy-driven inflation.
Second, producers, who enjoyed record profits last year, have little incentive to quickly pump their remaining acreage because investors have consistently rewarded discipline. And third, shortages of everything from labor to steel pipes and drilling equipment will also restrain growth if and when companies decide to boost supplies. Lastly, while President Joe Biden has recently implored the industry to keep pushing output, his agenda also includes the fight against climate change, which means the political picture could easily swing against shale.
Public companies are making the conscious choice to limit capital spending for new wells in favor of boosting returns to shareholders, said Raoul LeBlanc, vice president for North American upstream oil and gas at S&P Global. Accelerating output despite a shortage of labor and equipment would be difficult and erode profitability, he said.
“The go-go days of shale growth turned a 4 million barrel-a-day system into a 12 million barrel a day system, but it lost a lot of money,” he said. “Now, they’re looking for payoff.”
Slow growth in the Permian is likely to create problems for consumers. A surprise oil-production cut from OPEC+ earlier this month jolted global economies and effectively set a floor for crude prices. It also leaves the century-old field, famous for its pancaked layers of oil-soaked rock, with a new identity after leading the world in crude growth.
“The Permian’s not dead,” said Chet Sharma, a senior associate at Enverus. “It’s kind of entering the next phase of its growth, which is much smaller compared to the shale boom era.”
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Output in 2030
The surveyed forecasters — S&P Global, Rystad Energy, Wood Mackenzie and Enverus — on average expect the Permian to add 2.4 million barrels of daily output by 2030 from 2022 levels. That’s nearly equivalent to the total amount of production from Iran, the fifth-biggest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies.
Once the Permian is past its 2030 peak, the basin’s decline will be slow. becoming a reliable pillar of global oil markets for decades. In 2035, Rystad and S&P Global see Permian production 1 million barrels a day higher than this year’s output. With this growth, US government forecasts show American production hovering between 12.3 million and 13.3 million barrels a day — higher than Saudi Arabia’s record annual output in 2022 — all the way out to 2050.
Other US oil regions like the Eagle Ford in south Texas and the Gulf of Mexico are stable or declining. So it’s up to the Permian to drive overall US production.
“We have not seen yet peak production from Permian,” Vicki Hollub, CEO for Occidental Petroleum Corp. said April 12 during Columbia University’s Global Energy Summit in New York.
“While other basins in the US may be plateauing, the Permian will continue to increase and will be able to overtime offset the declines from the other basins,” she said.
--With assistance from Sheela Tobben.
(Updates with comment from analyst beginning in fifth paragraph.)
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