Exxon Aims for $15-a-Barrel Costs in Giant Permian Operation; Deploying 55 rigs this year
Energy giant plans to deploy 55 rigs in the Permian this year, by far the most of any driller, as it aims to increase output in the region roughly five-fold to one million barrels a day by 2024.
Exxon Mobil plans to reduce the cost of pumping oil in the Permian to about $15 a barrel, a level up to now only seen in the giant oil fields of the Middle East.
The scale of Exxon’s drilling means that it can spread its costs over such a big operation that the basin will become competitive with almost anywhere in the world, Staale Gjervik, president of XTO Energy, the supermajor’s shale division, said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Development, operating and land acquisition costs will be “in and around $15 a barrel,” he said on the sidelines of the CERAWeek conference in Houston. That day, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading at about $58.50. “The way we are approaching it is very unique compared to most, if not really everybody out there, as far as the scale,” he said.
The shale revolution has made the Permian into the world’s largest shale field, with production topping four million barrels a day, almost as much as Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest member. That will likely double by 2025, Gjervik said, as the majors ramp up activity. But the rapid growth has often meant that producers burn cash flow to reinvest in the expansion, prompting investors to call on them to focus more on returns in 2019.
Exxon plans to deploy 55 rigs in the Permian this year, by far the most of any driller, as it aims to increase output in the region roughly five-fold to about one million barrels a day by 2024. Its strategy also includes building its own takeaway infrastructure from separation tanks to pipelines, and it’s even joining a giant conduit project to make sure its oil doesn’t get stuck in bottlenecks that have depressed prices in West Texas.
Some analysts raised their eyebrows over Exxon’s ambitious plan for the Permian, but Gjervik argues that it’s exactly that kind of massive scale that will help the company generate $5 billion of cash flow from the region by 2023.
The supermajor’s production and cash targets don’t depend on buying more drilling rights but “we’ll always be looking for the right deal,” Gjervik said. Some recent land sales and acquisitions have “seen some staggering per acre cost,” he said, adding that prices may be justified by the sheer amount of stacked oil zones in some parts of the Permian.
Exxon’s Permian expansion pits it against US rival Chevron, which is also aiming for strong growth there. The San Ramon, California-based company has announced plans for 900,000 barrels a day by 2023. Royal Dutch Shell is “actively looking” for deals to bulk up its Permian operations, Wael Sawan, the company’s upstream director-in-waiting has said. Even so, its production will increase about 30 percent a year.
img: XTO Energy