The Strategist

The World Bank: American shale oil producers triggered the 2014-2016 oil prices collapse

05/03/2018 - 10:46

The 70 percent collapse in oil prices in 2014-2016 was the third major decline since World War II. It was triggered by a sharp increase in production and production efficiency of shale oil in the United States, states the World Bank's (WB) working report on the causes and consequences of the latest oil crisis. This event put an end to the long period of high oil prices, which lasted from 2003 on the background of growing demand from China and other emerging markets. Although in 2017-2018 oil recovered some of the losses, the barrel still remains cheaper than the average in 2011 -2014 years.

Shale oil produced by the United States accounts for only 6% of global production, but it provided almost half of global production growth in 2010-2014. Analysts underestimated the rate of these changes: the International Energy Agency twice revised its forecast for the US, the World Bank reminds. In addition, this phenomenon was overshadowed by geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East: the conflict in Libya, Iran's sanctions and fears of disruptions in the supply of Iraqi oil. However, in 2014, these fears dissipated, the production of shale oil continued to rise to a peak of 5 million barrels per day at the end of 2014, and the growth in production in the US exceeded the entire growth in global demand. OPEC’s decision of November 2014 to abandon price controls strengthened the market's opinion on a significant excess supply. However, the weak growth of the global economy in the second phase of the crisis - during 2015 - means that demand also played a role in its genesis, the World Bank notes.

Assessing the consequences of the crisis, the bank indicates that the cheapened oil did not cause the expected revival of the world economy due to economic rebalancing in China and a sharp reduction in investments in the US against the background of a slowdown in the country's energy sector and strengthening of the dollar. Although exporting countries with a flexible exchange rate and a relatively large fiscal buffer coped better with the crisis, the prospects for medium-term growth of the economy and tax revenue remain negative for most producers. At the same time, fundamental changes in the oil market make the return to high prices unlikely, they need to intensify structural reforms and diversify the economy, the World Bank believes.

In the meantime, analysts at Citigroup reckon that a significant drop in oil prices could occur in 2019 due to a rapid increase in supplies from the US, Brazil, Canada, which more than compensates for the growing demand. 

Meanwhile, experts at Goldman Sachs note that there is a possibility of a significant increase in the forecast for oil prices for the next year, which is now $ 70 per barrel. In their view, the response of the US oil shale producers to rising prices could prompt OPEC + to extend the agreement on limiting production to the end of 2019.