The Economy

U.S. Oil Output Lower Than Previous Estimate

New data from the Energy Information Administration confirm production has taken a hit from the slide in oil prices.
Katie Kuehner-HebertAugust 31, 2015

Using new survey methodology, the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Monday lowered its previous estimate of U.S. oil output.

The EIA now estimates that 9.3 million barrels of U.S. crude oil was produced per day in June, a decrease of about 100,000 barrels per day from the revised May 2015 figure. Production estimates for January through May were revised downward by 40,000 barrels per day, to 130,000 barrels per day.

The largest revisions in volume include decreases of oil production in Texas, ranging from about 100,000 barrels per day to 150,000 barrels per day, and increases in the federal Gulf of Mexico, ranging from about 10,000 barrels per day to 50,000 barrels per day. U.S. crude oil production for the first six months of 2015 averaged 9.4 million barrels per day.

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The report is the first to incorporate EIA data gathered directly from companies, rather than from state agencies.

The Wall Street Journal said the data confirm that “U.S. oil output has taken a hit from lower oil prices, as new investments have proven uneconomic and some companies have struggled to stay afloat.”

“Oil investors and analysts have been surprised this year that U.S. oil output, especially from shale-oil fields, remained robust even as last year’s plunge in oil prices led to a drop in spending on new drilling,” the WSJ noted. “Companies cut costs and became more efficient in the face of low prices, allowing them to keep production near multi-decade highs.”

Before the new data, “the magnitude and source of decline has been less than reassuring,” Morgan Stanley analysts said. “However, if the data show a more pronounced decline in North Dakota, Texas or the interior shale producing states, it could give confidence to a market increasingly doubting any decline in U.S. production.”

On the other hand, the number of rigs drilling for oil has risen for six straight weeks, the WSJ said, “sparking some concerns that production growth could resume sooner than expected.”

Based on current rig data, Goldman Sachs analysts wrote that they expect U.S. production in the fourth quarter to be 130,000 barrels a day higher than a year before, up by 5,000 barrels a day from their estimate the previous week.