The Economy

Low Prices No Tonic for Oil and Gas CFOs

Despite plummeting gas prices, few finance execs expect global oil demand to increase in 2015.
Matthew HellerDecember 4, 2014
Low Prices No Tonic for Oil and Gas CFOs

Low gas prices may be a tonic for U.S. motorists, but they’re spooking energy executives. In a new survey, 45% of U.S. oil and gas CFOs said they expected low oil and gas prices to be their greatest financial challenge in the upcoming year — a 55% increase over the number expressing similar sentiments last year.

Consulting firm BDO USA also reported in its 2015 Energy Outlook Survey that the number of CFOs citing price declines as the main obstacle inhibiting energy industry growth has grown by about 68% over last year.

This year has seen robust U.S. production, but demand has not kept pace, causing oil prices to dip below $70 per barrel. According to BDO, CFOs are not optimistic that this trend will abate in the coming year, with only 37% expecting global demand to increase in 2015, a 43% drop from last year.

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In response to the soft demand, one-third of CFOs said they will pursue cost reduction programs to improve value for stakeholders, while 56% said they will cut costs and seek efficiencies to remain profitable in 2015.

“The past six months have seen the oil markets return to the volatility that has historically characterized the industry,” Charles Dewhurst, partner and leader of the natural resources practice at BDO, said in a news release.

“However … U.S. companies have been preparing for a return to fluctuations and are well-equipped to navigate through this transitional period,” he added.

CFOs are more optimistic, according to the survey, about natural gas, but remain cautious. Nearly two-thirds expect the domestic supply of natural gas to increase in the coming year, while the majority expect both global and domestic demand to increase as well.

“However, all of these projections are less optimistic than those contained in last year’s study, suggesting that depressed natural gas prices and difficulties accessing the global markets continue to decelerate growth,” BDO said.

Other concerns for oil and gas CFOs include more restrictive government regulations and taxes, with nearly two-thirds citing the loss of the intangible drilling costs deduction as a leading tax issue this year.