FRACTIONAL FLOW

Fractional flow, the flow that shapes our future.

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Are the Light Tight Oil (LTO) Companies trying to outsmart Mother Nature with their Financial Balance Sheets?

In this post I present what I found from applying R/P (Reserves divided by [annual] Production) ratios for Light Tight Oil (LTO) for 3 big companies in Bakken/Three Forks/Sanish.

The companies are; Continental Resources, Oasis Petroleum and Whiting Petroleum, which operated 28% of total LTO extraction in the Bakken(ND) in December 2014.

  • Undertaking oil and gas reserves assessments are just as much an art as a science.

From previous work with LTO from Bakken I kept track of the R/P ratio for wells/portfolios and generally found it was in the range of 3 – 4 after their first year of flow. This suggested that 25 – 35% of the wells’ Estimated Ultimate Recovery (EUR) was extracted in their first year of flow.

This made sense as extraction (production) from LTO wells are heavily front end loaded and have steep initial declines.

Examining some big Bakken companies SEC 10-K (SEC; Securities and Exchange Commission) filings for 2014 I noticed that these had R/P ratios for Proven Developed Reserves (PDP) that ranged from 7 – 9.

(Refer to the end of this post for more detailed explanations/definitions of PDP and PUD)

That did not make sense and R/P ratios give away powerful and very valuable information about likely future extraction trajectories.

About 50% of the companies’ total LTO extraction (flow) in Dec 2014 in Bakken (ND) were from wells started in 2014. In other words, the flow was dominated by “young” wells which decline rapidly. Therefore, whatever flow data (monthly, quarterly) that was annualized it should be expected a R/P ratio for total extraction around 4 for 2014.

What I present is how PDP, extraction data and R/P data derived from the 3 companies SEC 10-K statements compares to what was derived from actual data. Further, what actual data now is projecting for EUR for the average well for these companies.

Figure 1: The chart above shows developments in average well first year LTO totals (productivity) for some companies and by vintage. The colored columns for 2013 and 2015 show projected financial performance based on average well first year LTO totals. For 2013 the chart is based on: WTI at $98/b and a type well at $10M was found to have a 0% return with a total first year LTO flow at about  50 kb.  For 2015 the chart is based on: WTI at $60/b and a type well at $8M was found to have a 0% return with a total first year LTO flow at about 90 kb.  The chart illustrates that the well productivity has been on an upward trend. So far the productivity improvements and cost reductions have not fully compensated for the effects from a much lower oil price.  The profitability equation of the type well was solved for the equivalent total first year flow for various oil prices and costs on a point forward basis. A lower oil price makes the red columns “push” the other ones upwards (moves the profitability bands upwards). Wells of 2015 vintage (pre May) are on a trajectory close to those of the 2014 vintage. kb,  kilo barrels = 1,000 barrels

Figure 1: The chart above shows developments in average well first year LTO totals (productivity) for some companies and by vintage. The colored columns for 2013 and 2015 show projected financial performance based on average well first year LTO totals.
For 2013 the chart is based on: WTI at $98/b and a type well at $10M was found to have a 0% return with a total first year LTO flow at about 50 kb.
For 2015 the chart is based on: WTI at $60/b and a type well at $8M was found to have a 0% return with a total first year LTO flow at about 90 kb.
The chart illustrates that the well productivity has been on an upward trend. So far the productivity improvements and cost reductions have not fully compensated for the effects from a much lower oil price.
The profitability equation of the type well was solved for the equivalent total first year flow for various oil prices and costs on a point forward basis.
A lower oil price makes the red columns “push” the other ones upwards (moves the profitability bands upwards).
Wells of 2015 vintage (per May) are on a trajectory close to those of the 2014 vintage.
kb, kilo barrels = 1,000 barrels

LTO in Bakken will now generally work profitably with an oil price (WTI) above $80/b.

The willingness of several companies to sell more debt (obtain more credit), assets and equity to continue to manufacture LTO wells which estimates showed were not commercially viable have had many analysts puzzled.

Something was likely overlooked, and chances are that this is related to EUR driven incentives to expand assets/equity on the companies’ balance sheets (or “book to model”).

As companies drill wells and puts these in operation (production), it allows them to book reserves on the balance sheets. And reserves are the biggest portion of the LTO companies’ balance sheets.

The rush to use credit/debt to drill what likely would become unprofitable wells (applying project economics) with a lasting, low oil price appears driven by some perverse incentive to grow booked reserves to grow assets and thus equity on the companies’ balance sheets, overriding outlooks for poor profitability. High equity on the balance sheets allows for more debt.

Looking at actual, hard well data (from NDIC; North Dakota Industrial Commission) this strategy will at some point have to face up to the realities of physics and Nature. And physics and Nature do NOT negotiate.

  • Using actual data for LTO wells strongly suggests that the PDP (and thus PUD) estimates in companies’ SEC 10-K filings for 2014 are grossly inflated. If so, this has inflated the assets/equity numbers on the companies’ balance sheets.
  • The findings from this study suggest that the massive drilling activity funded by growing debt, was likely motivated by balance sheets expansions of assets, and thus the equity from inflated EUR numbers (“book to model”) which made room to take on more debt.
  • An inflated balance sheet that allows for a debt load above the carrying capacities of the real underlying collateral, will at some point in time turn against their creators and call for revisions of future plans and expectations.
  • It will be interesting to see how the LTO companies’ balance sheets and their profitability respond as it become Mother Nature’s turn with the bat.

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Written by Rune Likvern

Monday, 3 August, 2015 at 10:33

Changes in Total Global Credit Affect The Oil Price

In some posts on Fractional Flow I have presented some of my explorations of any relations between the oil price, changes to global total credit/debt and interest rates. My objective has been to gain and share some of my insights of how I see the economic undertows that also influences the price formation for crude oil.

I have earlier asserted;

  • Any forecasts of oil (and gas) demand/supplies and oil price trajectories are NOT very helpful if they do not incorporate forecasts for changes to total global credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

In this post I present results from an analysis of developments to the annual changes in total debt in the private, non financial sector of some Advanced Economies (AE’s), and 5 Emerging Economies (EME’s) from Q1 2000 and as of Q3 2014 with data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS in Basel, Switzerland).

The AE’s are: Euro area, Japan and the US.

The 5 EME’s are: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Thailand which in the post are collectively referred to as “The 5 EME’s”.

Year over year (YOY) changes in total private debt for the analyzed economies were juxtaposed with YOY changes in total petroleum consumption in these based upon data from BP Statistical Review 2014.

  • As the AE’s slowed growth in, and/or deleveraged their total private debt after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008/2009, the EME’s continued their strong growth in total private debt and China accelerated it significantly in 2009.
  • The AE’s petroleum consumption declined noticeably as from 2007, resulting from the combination of high oil prices and tepid debt growth and/or deleveraging.
  • The EME’s remained defiant to high oil prices and continued their strong growth in petroleum consumption, which likely was made possible by strong growth in total private debt.
  • Demand remains what the consumers can pay for!

All debts counts, household, corporate, financial and public (both government and local) and exerts an influence on economic performance (GDP, Gross Domestic Product).

A low interest rate allows for growth in total debt and eases services of the growing total debt load.

Figure 01: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot, black line] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available monetary tools to support the global financial markets which the economy heavily relies upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive. NOTE: The chart suggests some causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price. The US dollar is the world’s major reserve currency and most currencies are joined to it at the hip.

Figure 01: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot, black line] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available monetary tools to support the global financial markets which the economy heavily relies upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive.
NOTE: The chart suggests some causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price. The US dollar is the world’s major reserve currency and most currencies are joined to it at the hip.

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GLOBAL CREDIT GROWTH, INTEREST RATE AND OIL PRICE – ARE THESE RELATED?

For some years my general understanding has been that the price formation for most commercial traded materials/products/items (including oil, which is paramount for all economic activities) is very much related to credit/debt growth, total debt levels and the interest rate (the price of money which also is a measure of credit risk).

In an effort to continue economic growth (to save the system and avoid the mother of all deflations) the worlds leading central banks (US Federal Reserve [FED], the most important one as the US dollar also serves as the world’s reserve currency, Bank of England [BoE] and will the European Central Bank [ECB] soon follow?) in recent years resorted to quantitive easing (QE) and lowered interest rates to almost zero to ease the burden from growing total debt loads. QE was intended to be a temporary measure.

The central banks (CB) actions appear to be a lot about preserving wealth ({inflating} assets) while there is little they can do about nature’s CAPITAL, like energy stocks (most importantly fossil fuels).

The CBs likely pursued these measures as they had few other good alternatives. It appears that the CBs policies may also have influenced the oil markets and helped shape the oil companies’ strategies to deal with a tighter supply/demand balance since 2005 by encouraging them to take on more debt and go after the more “expensive” oil.

The world has also become more complex, interconnected and continued good growth in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) post the global financial crisis.

CBs do not have the capabilities to create cheap, abundant and lasting energy supplies. For some limited time the world’s CBs and their policies may have alleviated (and for some time continue to) some of the effects of the growth in oil/energy prices, though this was likely not their primary objective when they deployed their policies.

WHAT SUPPORTED GROWTH IN OIL DEMAND AND PRICE FORMATION?

Econ 101 refers to the law of supply and demand as the price arbitrator for raw materials, goods and services. The credit/debt will be assumed and mortgaged against promises to honor it in the future and pay interest.

One understanding of our economies is to view them as thermodynamic flows where money is the facilitator that brings energy/thermodynamic flows to and allocate these within the economies.

During the recent decades, growth in credit/debt (borrowing from the future) grew aggregate demand and to some extent negated the price growth induced from demand growth.

The recent years continued growth in credit/debt was stimulated by lowering the interest rate. By keeping interest rates low, less revenues/funds were needed to service the consequences of the growth in total debts, and thus allowed for continued deficit spending and thus support economic activities at elevated levels.

In March 2014 the Bank for International Settlements (BIS in Basel, Switzerland) published a paper titled Global liquidity: where it stands, and why it matters (pdf file, 200 kB) which presented some interesting data and observations about developments in global bank credit/debt levels.

Figure 01: The 6 panel graphic above shows global bank credit aggregates and the most important borrower regions. The chart at upper left shows that global bank credit more than doubled from 2000 to 2013. In the US [upper middle chart] the growth in bank credit slowed from around 2007 (the subprime/housing crisis) and overall credit growth was continued by increased public borrowing for deficit spending. In the Euro area [upper right chart] the total debt levels led to a slowdown in growth of bank credit post 2008 (or the Global Financial Crisis; GFC) and more recently it appears as deleveraging has started [default is one mechanism of deleveraging]. In the Euro area petroleum consumption is now  down around 13% since 2008. Asia Pacific [lower left chart] which includes China, continued a strong credit growth and thus carried on the global credit growth. Latin America [lower middle chart] which includes Brazil, continued together with Asia Pacific the strong total global credit growth. Global GDP in 2013 was estimated at above $70 trillion.

Figure 01: The 6 panel graphic above shows global bank credit aggregates and the most important borrower regions. The chart at upper left shows that global bank credit more than doubled from 2000 to 2013.
In the US [upper middle chart] the growth in bank credit slowed from around 2007 (the subprime/housing crisis) and overall credit growth was continued by increased public borrowing for deficit spending.
In the Euro area [upper right chart] the total debt levels led to a slowdown in growth of bank credit post 2008 (or the Global Financial Crisis; GFC) and more recently it appears as deleveraging has started [default is one mechanism of deleveraging]. In the Euro area petroleum consumption is now down around 13% since 2008.
Asia Pacific [lower left chart] which includes China, continued a strong credit growth and thus carried on the global credit growth.
Latin America [lower middle chart] which includes Brazil, continued together with Asia Pacific the strong total global credit growth.
Global GDP in 2013 was estimated at above $70 trillion.

Private and public debt growth through the recent decades added support for the increased oil consumption and negated the effects of higher prices caused by a tight supply/demand balance. In recent years the consumers (private sector) in many Western countries are at what appears as debt saturation, and several sovereigns are trying to carry on the overall debt growth through increased  public borrowing and deficit spending, albeit at lower levels.

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A CLOSER LOOK INTO THE DRIVERS OF THE NORWEGIAN ECONOMY’s RECENT GROWTH SUCCESS

In this post I present some hard data from the Norwegian economy, which in the recent decades show high correlations between total debt growth and the oil price. Presently the total debt growth from some sectors runs at an annual rate above 8% of GDP.

I also present my thoughts and observations about historical developments and what may lie ahead.

The economic undertows now suggest for a sharp downturn in the Norwegian economy. A deep look into the public data from Statistics Norway (SSB) reveals that it was the growth in debt, primarily acquired by the Norwegian households, that was and still continues to be a major and less acknowledged contributor to the recent growth success of the Norwegian economy.

The primer for the strong nominal growth in debt was likely the growth in the oil price starting back in 2004. The oil price has remained at a structurally higher level at around $100/bbl.

Developments in the Norwegian economy have been tightly linked to movements of the oil price and the value of petroleum exports.

  • It is widely recognized that the growth in the oil price spurred more investments for exploration and developments for petroleum from the North Sea.
  • With the increased Norwegian North Sea petroleum activities followed an acceleration in households, non financial and municipalities debt growth.

Figure 1: The stacked columns in the chart above show the development in the 12 Months Moving Totals (Annualized) for Norwegian exports split on petroleum (oil, condensates and natural gas [green columns]) and exports exclusive of petroleum [black columns]. The orange line shows the development in the 12 Months Moving Totals (Annualized) for total imports and the pink line the 12 Months Moving Totals (Annualized) for the trade balance. 6 NOK ~ 1 USD By clicking on the chart a bigger version opens in a new tab/window (goes for all the charts in this post).

Figure 1: The stacked columns in the chart above show the development in the 12 Months Moving Totals (Annualized) for Norwegian exports split on petroleum (oil, condensates and natural gas [green columns]) and exports exclusive of petroleum [black columns]. The orange line shows the development in the 12 Months Moving Totals (Annualized) for total imports and the pink line the 12 Months Moving Totals (Annualized) for the trade balance.
6 NOK ~ 1 USD
By clicking on the chart a bigger version opens in a new tab/window (goes for all the charts in this post).

Norway had a long history of running a balanced trade account and with increased incomes from petroleum exports during the recent decades, a big trade surplus.

As the data on imports are not broken down by sectors, there is good reason to believe that a major portion of the import growth originates from purchases of goods and services for the petroleum industry.

The value of Norwegian petroleum exports is now expected to decline in the near term with the decline in production, primarily of crude oil and by the end of this decade also natural gas.

Anyhow the data were whipped around for confessions, it turned out the Norwegian economy now appear to approach a major turn around.

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