Stephen I. Ternyik | Techno-Logos, Inc.
As US oil and gas share prices languish, there is some nagging concern about the financial health of the industry. Despite turning the world’s largest importer of crude oil into a global exporter, questions linger about profitability and financial leverage – some skeptics have gone so far as to ask if the industry is a “Ponzi Scheme.” Moreover, as oil and gas prices continue their lower-for-longer (but volatile) trajectory, and investors clamor for ever-more cash – in the form of dividends and share repurchases – operators struggle to balance competing demands on cash. We analyzed 35 publicly-traded, US and Canadian tight/shale oil and gas specialists over the six years since global oil prices collapsed and found the industry to be largely profitable (i.e., aggregate Net Income of $5 per oil-equivalent-barrel produced), despite relatively low oil and gas prices. Moreover, with aggregate operating cash flow of $19 per oil-equivalent-barrel (boe) produced the industry has matured sufficiently to self-finance its own growth. In fact, despite heavy investment in both production-growth and reserves-growth, total financial leverage is modest (1.6x EBITDA) and one-third of operators’ credit ratings are investment grade. And in a separate comparative analysis with conventional Independents, we found that US tight oil operators have demonstrated superior profitability, growth and reinvestment, and financial leverage. Across the North American onshore E&P industry, technology-led, operational continuous improvement is driving dramatic, sustainable gains in well-productivity and cost per boe.