US shale oil producers will likely benefit from any decision OPEC makes this week in Vienna, with the exception of a complete breakdown in unity that created the current supply quotas. “The US is in a strong position either way here,” director of oil and products research at Morningstar Commodities and Energy Sandy Fielden said. “I think you’ll see a benefit even if OPEC increases production, provided that they don’t allow prices to fall below $40/b. And there’s absolutely no incentive for OPEC to allow that to happen.” Permian Basin drillers are making money despite steep Midland discounts caused by a lack of Texas pipeline capacity that is expected to continue until mid-2019. Oil prices would have to fall sharply to change that picture, analysts said.
US shale was long seen as a rival to OPEC, but those tensions may be subsiding as a global supply shortage looms. Several CEOs of international oil companies, including US drillers Pioneer Natural Resources and Hess, will address the OPEC International Seminar on Wednesday in Vienna, at times sharing a stage with OPEC ministers. The production group will then meet Friday to discuss changes to its supply cut agreement that took effect in January 2017. Rapidan Energy Group President Bob McNally said chaos would be the only outcome to Friday’s meeting in Vienna that would be negative for US drillers. “If there was a disorderly breakdown of unity, and everyone went back to maximum production, if we go back to 2016 where everyone is going to the max, that could risk a price implosion,” he said. “If you’re a shale oil producer, you don’t want that.”
That’s why McNally thinks US shale producers are praying this week for anything but a free-for-all. “I think many shale producers before they go to bed include in their prayers to the Lord the continued success of the Vienna Group. I’m only half-joking,” he said, pointing to Oklahoma’s governor in December 2016 declaring a day of prayer to thank OPEC for reaching the supply cut agreement.