September West Texas Intermediate rose 1.2% on Wednesday to close at $42.19 per barrel and October Brent inched up 1.7% to $45.17 per barrel, the highest settlements since March 6, after the Energy Information Administration reported a 7.4-million-barrel decline in US crude oil inventories. However, gasoline and distillate stockpiles increased by 419,000 barrels and 1.6 million barrels, respectively.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Wednesday that the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline can continue operating, but stopped short of blocking a prior ruling ordering the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an additional environmental review. American Petroleum Institute Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Paul Afonso welcomed the appellate court's decision, but noted that "the failure to uphold the easement granted years ago by the federal government exemplifies the problems with our outdated permitting system."
Epic Midstream has commenced operations at its 110,000-barrel-per-day natural gas liquids processing plant in Robstown, Texas, which will provide Permian Basin producers and processors and alternative to Mont Belvieu, Texas. Epic also struck deals for NGL storage, transportation and processing with Phillips 66, MPLX and WhiteWater Midstream.
The US saw its crude oil exports decline for the fourth consecutive month to an average of 2.75 million barrels per day in June, according to US Census Bureau data, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to sap global oil demand. China was the top buyer of US crude, while Saudi Arabia received roughly 550,000 barrels, marking the first US crude shipment to the OPEC nation since 2002.
Pioneer Natural Resources plans to keep shut 6,000 barrels per day of the roughly 7,000 bpd of oil production it had curbed during the second quarter, citing a challenging price environment. The company expects to produce 341,000-356,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the third quarter, down from 375,000 boe/d in the second quarter.
As the oil market remains in a state of turmoil, Diamondback Energy, Concho Resources and other shale producers are directing their reduced capital budgets to preserving oil production and keeping output declines to a minimum. Continental Resources founder and Chairman Harold Hamm warned that production will not return to a strong growth trajectory unless oil prices climb to $50-$60 per barrel.
BP's plan to reduce its oil and natural gas production by 40% over the next decade as part of its sustainability push does not mean it will pull back from its US shale investments, which remain economically viable, BP Chief Financial Officer Murray Auchincloss said. "We're finding more zones than we thought originally...and obviously, the capital is deflating these days, service rates are down so when we start drilling again, service rates are going to be an awful lot lower," Auchincloss added.
Pioneer Natural Resources and Devon Energy could start paying variable dividends on top of their regular dividends in the next couple of years, while ConocoPhillips and Concho Resources are also considering similar options. Variable dividends could become an industry fixture as shale producers seek to reward investors and convince them they won't spend too much on drilling when oil prices improve, Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co analyst Matt Portillo said.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Tuesday voted to raise the mill levy on oil and natural gas production -- its primary source of funding -- from 1.1 to 1.5 mills. Lynn Granger, executive director of API Colorado, the state chapter of the American Petroleum Institute, said, "We strongly support the need to fully fund the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission," but "we have concerns about the impact of this increase during these challenging economic times."
A new bill introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and backed by senators from several other oil-producing states proposes revising the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to make sure pipeline projects can continue to use Nationwide Permit 12 and other Nationwide Permits. The bill would be "an efficient, short-term solution to restore regulatory certainty and allow continued development of critical infrastructure projects affected by recent federal court decisions," the American Petroleum Institute said.