Despite cutting capital expenditures since 2014, oil majors have yet to suffer as expected from underinvesting, according to a new report from S&P Global Ratings. Instead, production—both actual and projected—is growing in aggregate among the industry’s biggest players.
The report noted that “the majors’ downstream refining and petrochemical assets provided them with a cushion as cash flows from the upstream businesses, especially straight exploration and production businesses, plunged.” Downstream businesses have since taken a backseat as higher oil prices, lower costs and capital expenditure have helped upstream performance recover.
Despite cutting investments by nearly 50% and delaying final investment decisions on major developments, production did not drop as much as dollar capital expenditure, according to the report.
It found that production profiles remained relatively stable across the five major oil companies between 2013 and 2017.
Across all oil majors, an average of about 55% of the production profile consisted of liquids. It found Chevron to be the most liquids-focused player, at about 65% of its production profile. By contrast, liquids only accounted for about 45% of Shell’s production. “Aggregate production is likely to continue growing, although the profiles differ by company,” says S&P.
Looking ahead, the ratings firm projects a modest reversal in capital expenditure cuts, but efficiency improvements in the industry suggest spending won’t approach 2013 levels.
Earlier this year, DNV, a technical advisor for the oil and gas industry, published findings from a survey conducted among senior oil and gas sector professionals, revealing that firms are expected to boost capital expenditure, operating expenses and research and development spending levels in 2018. Two-thirds of respondents said their company would maintain or increase capital spending this year, compared to 39% in 2017, according to the survey.