Continental Resources and Whiting Petroleum Corporation are among the latest operators with Bakken assets announcing sharp drops to capital expenditures in the wake of an ongoing price war between Russia and OPEC.
Continental said it will reduce its 2020 capital expenditures by 55 percent, dropping its 2020 capex to $1.2 billion. Whiting will cut capex by 30 percent, or $185 million, dropping its total capital budget to between $400 to $435 million.
For Continental, this translates to a reduction of six rigs in the Bakken, dropping it from nine to three for 2020. Continental will also cut rigs in Oklahoma, going from 10.5 to about four rigs there.
Whiting, which had already made some cuts last year, said it will drop another rig and another completion crew within the next month.
Continental expects the revision to its capex to have slight impact on production statistics. It is projecting the drop in crude oil production will be less than 5 percent.
Whiting said its cuts will have “moderate impact” on 2020 crude oil production, but deferred specifics to more formal guidance that it will release during its first quarter earnings call.
Continental’s Chief Executive Officer Bill Berry said the company is also looking at cost-saving initiatives across its operations to remain free cash flow positive, and expects to remain cash flow neutral even under $30 per barrel WTI.
Berry added that Continental has a strong, solid balance sheet, peer-leading operating costs, and minimal long-term service and supply contracts, which positions it well to ride out the current downturn in oil prices.
“Continental will remain flexible and nimble as we optimize development and monitor market conditions,” he said. “Continental has a proven track record of adjusting activity and delivering cost savings to maximize cash flow generation in lower price environments.”
Bradley J. Holly, Whiting’s Chairman, President and CEO, likewise suggested the company will remain alert to opportunities to adjust its plans based on market conditions.
“In light of the volatility in commodity prices, we have immediately reduced our development activity and plan to maintain a lower level until we see a sustained commodity price recovery,” he said. “This new spending plan preserves our liquidity while improving capital efficiency. Increased operating efficiencies and strong well performance underpin this plan, and we continue to focus on enhancing cash flow by working with our service providers to further lower well costs and increase well productivity. In addition, we remain on track to exceed our cost reduction goals for lease operating expense and G&A.”
Continental has holdings in the Bakken and Oklahoma, while Whiting is an independent oil and gas company with holdings primarily in Bakken and Three Forks plays in North Dakota and the Niobrara play in northeast Colorado.
The two companies are among a string of Bakken players announcing capex cuts in the wake of an ongoing price war between Russia and OPEC.
The price war began after Russia rejected 1.5 million in production cuts during a meeting of OPEC+ on March 6. Following that, Saudi Arabia announced it would not only cut oil prices to China and Europe, counties important to Russian markets, but would also ramp up production by 2 million barrels per day. Subsequently, Russia also announced a production hike of 500,000 barrels per day.
The announcement, coming on the heels of sinking demand due to coronavirus, sank crude oil prices so fast, it pulled many other stocks down as well, triggering circuit breakers that temporarily halted trading on Wall Street.
ONEOK and Marathon have since both announced cuts to their capital expenditures of $500 million, or about 30 percent.
Marathon said most of its cuts will be in Oklahoma and the Delaware, rather than the Bakken and Eagleford, where it will “optimize.”
ONEOK’s cuts will include expansion of the Demick’s Lake Gas plant, and the scope of the Elk Creek NGLs pipeline.
Hess Corporation announced an $800 million cut, bringing its overall capex to $2.2 billion. That will drop its rig count from six to one in the Bakken, but the company projected that will come with only a 5,000 barrel per day reduction in crude oil.
Liberty Oilfield Services, meanwhile, announced that members of its executive team have accepted a 20 percent cut to base salary. The company is reviewing other cost-cutting measures.