Friday, 19 December 2014
Is the North Sea really a dead duck?
Here are some thoughts on it:
1 - The oil price will bounce back, but in reality the days of $200 oil are a chimera. There is lots of shale oil, LNG is replacing oil demand rapidly across the world (rapid in terms of over this decade). Many countries full of oil have restricted access to market - Libya, Iran and Syria for example.
2 - So where will it hit, well the ceiling may well be governed by the Shale Oil sit around $69 in the US currently, maybe a tad more. So long-term this may well be the placeholder for oil to float around - touching a hundred in times of stress maybe, but no further. Certainly going lower at points such as we are now.
3 - Oil demand is rising more slowly than in the past as the world grows more slowly and Renewables and LNG take the strain- another long-term constraint is in play.
So, overall this is very bad news for the North Sea, where extraction costs are $60-70 per barrel - the same as Shale oil. So it won't die but it becomes a very marginal business with small fields at the end of their lives. Plus the increasing regulation around decommissioning is another negative factor.
I can't see a new North Sea rush without huge tax breaks (umm, by which I mean reduction of the huge taxes on production and distribution, not actual subsidies) which maybe what is needed. The greenies in the political parties may well put a stop to this.
Such a shame for the humour of the world that the Scots did not go independent though and then have to face this reality!