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Crude oil prices may have rallied from their recent lows, but it’s still a painful environment for producers.
Since bottoming near $26 per barrel in February, West Texas Intermediate crude oil, the US benchmark, has gained nearly 70%.
However, prices are still below what’s needed for many oil producers to breakeven.
The chart below via Citi, published in a note last week, shows the weighted averages of breakeven costs for production across major shale-oil plays.
On Monday, WTI futures traded near $44 per barrel. And so, with the exception of the Wolfcamp formation, these players are still losing money by pumping oil.
The chart is a reminder that the industry is not yet out of its turmoil, even as optimism rises. As of last week Friday, the active-oil-rig count had gained in 11 out of the last 12 weeks, the longest stretch since early 2014, which was before the oil crash.
Citi noted that Brent crude oil, the international benchmark of prices, has recently traded in a tight $45-$55 per barrel range. Oil remained stable even after the International Energy Agency said it expects the market to remain oversupplied for longer than it had thought.
“In any case, compared to say a year ago, the supply overhang has come in a lot, and thus we still feel that sustained price undershoots are unlikely from here, wrote Citi’s Jeremy Hale and his team.
“On the flip side, large price overshoots will be limited by shale producers coming back online on higher prices. The $40-55/bbl oil range looks likely to hold in other words.”