Oil and gas looks poised to remain strong in the new year, despite uncertainty in the global marketplace and skepticism regarding the decisions of some of the industry’s largest players. Much of the concern relating to future expectations is in response to declining oil prices, which fell nearly 50 percent in 2014, according to Bloomberg. And with global oil consumption having already peaked, some analysts perceive oil to be in trouble.
However, North America has been able to stay a step ahead of other global competitors because of innovations in shale gas production. Shale deposits have provided the U.S. with the chance to make use of vast amounts of previously trapped resources while other countries continue to drill in traditional wells.
With the resurgence of hydraulic fracturing, U.S. output has soared as OPEC and other nations struggle to maintain their relevance in the marketplace. Instead of lowering production levels to handle price declines, OPEC decided to keep it’s drilling capacity at the same rate to bolster their share of the global oil market, which is roughly 40 percent, according to Bloomberg.
“Collection, transfer and implementation of analytical data will be key to finetuning fracking efforts in 2015.”
Although many fracking companies in the U.S. have, in fact, lowered their future production forecasts and immediate drilling levels, they’ve still been able to profit at current price ranges. IDC Energy Insights released a report with 10 predictions about the future of the U.S. oil and gas industry and noted that companies that are better able to remain flexible in today’s environment are the best positioned to head into 2015 with a positive outlook.
“Rapid and radical changes in energy supply and demand requires gas companies to be more agile, resilient and innovative to retain competitive edge and perform for the market,” said Jill Feblowitz, vice president of IDC Energy Insights. “These top 10 decision imperatives will help oil and gas companies focus their efforts and deploy technology wisely to meet those ends.”
One of the largest areas for industry growth is in the field of data. IDC estimates 80 percent of oil and gas companies will update their logistics software to better track and ship resources across the country. Further, spending on these technologies will jump 30 percent in the next two years.
As market conditions remain tight, businesses will have to place a larger emphasis on efficiency. Traditional models of exploration and shipping won’t be as profitable in the coming years, and the collection, transfer and implementation of analytical data will be key to finetuning fracking efforts and providing oil and gas to new customers more efficiently.
The Los Angeles Times indicated there’s another avenue for U.S. expansion if the necessary laws can be passed: exporting.
Many analysts believe OPEC is simply playing a waiting game and hoping that prices drop low enough that the shale boom in the U.S. is no longer profitable for businesses. While OPEC continues to bare the brunt of the negative effects, by allowing the price of oil to fall further, the U.S. might become disinterested in keeping their standing in the market.
This is unlikely to occur, however, as the U.S. is fully invested in it’s efforts to be energy independent in a matter of years. And one way to continue to profit in the current environment is to ship more oil and gas to other countries.
The issue is that the U.S. has a stringent ban on exports to countries without free-trade agreements, particularly in the case of liquefied natural gas (LNG). But if the U.S. were to remove this barrier, exports would flow out of the country and reap rewards oil and gas companies. Whether this step will be taken remains to be seen.
The future of fracking remains a vital part of the U.S.’s total energy output and will continue to play a pivotal role in 2015 as oil prices bottom out and return to normal levels.
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