Late Week Reading

Oxford Institute for Energy Studies: Prospects for US shale productivity gains

Fears over the shale industry re-erupted in 2019. Some worry that the best resources have now been produced and productivity has peaked. However, we find these conclusions are premature, as they are based on backward-looking, volatile data. By contrast, to provide forward-looking indicators, we have assessed the industry’s innovation across a longitudinal sample of 650 technical papers from 2018-2019. Our methodology is very different from listening to the commentary on earnings calls, which tends to be backwards looking, very high-level, and shies away from technological innovations that are on the cusp of commercialisation. We believe the trends in US shale are still constructive. The quantity, quality, basin-focus, technical-focus and methodologies of these papers all imply continued productivity gains, not problems. The most exciting innovation areas are in enhanced oil recovery, digital instrumentation, machine learning, advanced modelling and overcoming parent-child issues. Therefore it is premature to discount the shale industry yet.