Shale producer Pioneer expects OPEC to boost oil prices as Brent tumbles

Shale producer Pioneer expects OPEC to boost oil prices as Brent tumbles

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will likely take steps to boost oil prices, which started the year in free-fall, the chief executive of top shale producer Pioneer Natural Resources said on Thursday.

“Saudi is not going to let Brent stay around $75 a barrel,” CEO Scott Sheffield told investors at a Goldman Sachs conference in Miami, Florida.

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OPEC and allies, or OPEC+, last month agreed to stick to current oil output targets despite concerns that a global economic slowdown could cut into demand. In October the group agreed to cut output by 2 million bpd, or 2% of world demand, from November to the end of 2023.

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“It wouldn’t surprise me if they had another cut,” Sheffield said.

His comments also came as oil prices started 2023 with the biggest two-day loss in three decades. Brent futures were trading close to $79 a barrel on Thursday morning.

Sheffield said future oil prices, often referred to as “the strip,” will likely stay in backwardation going forward, with current prices higher than future contracts.

“There is no liquidity in the market,” he said referring to later-dated oil contracts. “Banks aren’t hedging, there’s nobody using that product and hedging anymore. No airlines are hedging, so there is nothing to bring up the strip.”

He anticipated oil prices would find a base of around $90 a barrel, with an upside of roughly $150 a barrel.

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Sheffield predicted that oil output in the largest U.S. shale basin will eventually hit 7 million bpd and plateau. He warned that the gas-to-oil ratio there will likely shift to under 50% oil over the next 10 years, prompting the need for a new gas pipeline roughly every 18 months.

Only Chevron, Pioneer Natural Resources and ConocoPhillips have the capacity to produce more than 1 million barrels per day of oil equivalent in the Permian by 2030, Sheffield predicted.

At the same time, he said the rig count will likely stay relatively flat and potentially decrease amid surging prices for services and takeaway constraints. He pointed to day rates of roughly $38,000 for rigs operated by drilling contractor Patterson-UTI.

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“Something has got to break,” he said. (Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey, Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang)

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