(Forbes, 12/2/2019) The folks at Enverus (formerly DrillingInfo) distributed an interesting analysis recently that reveals a great deal about the story of the domestic U.S. oil and gas industry for 2019. It tells a story of an increasingly two-tiered business segment in which the relative financial health of each company is driven largely by its ability to either generate sufficient cash flow to fund drilling operations or, failing that, to obtain capital through financial institutions and/or private equity groups.
Per the November 21 weekly Rig Count Update, “Nearly two-thirds of the rig count drop over the past 12 months was due to privately held companies idling their drilling rigs. During this period, a net 29% of private operators, who were drilling at the beginning of this period, have since suspended all of their U.S. drilling operations. Though the rig count appears to have flattened out over this past week, the rig reductions by private operators continued unabated. We observed a net five private companies and a net seven rigs controlled by this group fall out of the mix relative to one week ago. Conversely, the group of publicly traded E&P companies whose drilling was stable added a net seven rigs over the week. Think of the private E&P companies as an indicator of the directional health of the oil & gas industry. Thus, any activity stabilization for this group of private companies is likely a sign that better times for the entire industry may be on the horizon. Unfortunately, we are not observing such a signal yet.”