For the second week in a row, gasoline prices are below $3, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Dropping another 5 cents from the previous week, prices are down by more than 25 cents compared to the same period in 2013. The steady decline has continued for much of 2014 with prices expected to fall even further in the coming weeks and months.
Lower gas prices mean drilling companies are not making as much money as when they could sell their product for a higher profit margin. This drop has led many to fear that companies will begin to draw down the capacity at which they are drilling, which would have a large impact on a variety of sectors.
State and local governments in areas surrounding large shale plays in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas and North Dakota rely heavily on taxes from drillers. Additionally, tens of thousands of jobs are related to the industry and with less drilling, a high number of workers per site wouldn't be necessary.
"Drillers are sticking with what they know and producing oil at very high levels."
Because resources from shale deposits are harder to extract than traditional wells, it is also more expensive for fracking companies. With revenues declining, oil may seem like a less profitable investment. However, drillers are sticking with what they know and are still producing oil at very high levels, pushing through this cycle of low prices with expectations of higher returns in the long run, according to NPR.
"The industry doesn't want to overreact, because this is an industry that's use to boom-bust cycles," said Consultant and Engineer Niles Hushka, according to NPR. "You have to be careful to make sure that the cycle is a true cycle, and that you're not seeing false statistics and so you might make some decisions that will hurt you."
By producing more, companies can still remain financially sound and meet their original revenue goals. The EIA estimated crude oil production reached nearly 9 million barrels per day in the first week of November – a record for the U.S.
US energy expanding
A new report from Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions noted within a matter of years, the U.S. positioned itself as the most dominant country in the field of energy. By lowering imports and producing more oil and gas domestically, the U.S. is projected to be a net exporter of resources in less than five years, making the country energy independent – a milestone for the U.S.
"The U.S. has reduced its net oil imports by a stunning 8.7 million bpd over a very short period of time – that's more than the total production of all countries in the world other than the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia and also greater than the combined exports of Saudi Arabia and Nigeria," the report stated.
Not only has production picked up in the face of lower gas prices, the U.S. is scheduled to increase its exports as well, further fueling demand for higher levels of production. While the natural gas industry is hampered by limits on exports, various types of oil are able to be shipped across the world. Light crude oil in particular is expected to be exported at a rate of 1 million bpd in the upcoming months.
"When it comes to crude oil and other hydrocarbons, the U.S. is bursting at the seams," read the Citi GPS report. "This situation is unlikely to stop even if prevailing prices for oil fall significantly – Citi anticipates that even if West Texas Intermediate prices fell below $75 for a while, production growth would continue at relatively high levels for years to come."
As the U.S. moves forward with its plan to become fully energy independent, the need for more drilling will continue, thus easing fears of potential slowdowns in the industry. However, the report noted the lack of necessary infrastructure to move resources efficiently is a significant burden holding back growth.
Though pipelines are the main transporter of oil and gas, there simply isn't enough pipeline currently in place capable of matching demand for resources. This has led companies to rely more heavily on trucks and railways to move products, including frac sand.
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