U.S. shale could face weeks of depressed oil production due to cold
The U.S. deep freeze will wreak havoc on oil and gas production for several days if not weeks, according to industry experts, as companies deal with frozen equipment and a lack of power to run operations.
Texas produces more oil and natural gas than any other U.S. state, and its operators, unlike those in North Dakota or Alaska, are not accustomed to dealing with frigid temperatures. Numerous refineries in Texas have also been shut, though weather events rarely knock substantial amounts of production offline in oil patches far from the Gulf coast.
Roughly 500,000 to 1.2 million barrels per day of the state’s crude production has been shut-in by the weather, which hit Texas with the coldest temperatures in 30 years, analysts at Rystad Energy said. The ripple effect from the cold is likely to reduce output for several weeks.
Icy roads in the Permian Basin, the top U.S. shale field, halted the trucking of everything from sand supplies to cement, while a loss of power that affected millions of Texas residents also cut electricity to oil pumps and saltwater disposal facilities. In some instances, wellheads froze. Cellular service, used to send data from wellsites to headquarters, was lost.
“They haven’t had the electricity available to make the pumps work,” said Texas Railroad Commissioner Jim Wright, one of the state’s three elected industry regulators. “Some producers in West Texas had to shut in entire fields when they lost power.”
Chevron Corp said the widespread power loss had led to “a significant production shut-in of our Permian assets,” while Exxon Mobil said its shale operations in the region were operating at “reduced capacity.”
Power interruptions for Texland Petroleum, which has 1,200 wells in the Permian Basin, started on Monday morning, President Jim Wilkes said.