The fourth quarter upstream earnings season raised multiple issues in the oil patch. But the biggest theme was really a single, solid dilemma: can E&P operators hit their production growth targets, and still maintain the fiscal austerity they had pledged last year, in the face of rapidly rising oilfield service costs? Analysts generally think so. WTI oil prices that have risen from a 2015-2017 average of $48/b to roughly $60/b have buoyed the industry and settled a blanket of confidence over oil company boardrooms. Low prices had stemmed from a rapid rise in shale oil output, which added nearly 4 million b/d of crude from end-2010 to end-2014 when falling oil prices kicked off a prolonged industry downturn. The event caught upstream companies, long used to outspending their incomes, off-guard. Now that industry is well into recovery mode, most observers believe the painful recent past has made a deep […]