With the price of oil falling below $75 a barrel Wednesday — down about 49% from last summer's highs — the industry's battle cry is sounding less and less convincing.
But falling oil prices are not the only reason why the air is coming out of the drilling balloon. The credit crunch has hampered oil company's ability to fund big-ticket drilling projects. Meanwhile, the prices that producers pay for raw materials and labor remain high.
"Any project that assumed oil would average $100 over the next 10 to 20 years is being seriously reconsidered at this time," said Richard Ward, senior cost analyst at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).
As recently as July, tapping deep water sources and extracting crude from Canadian oil sands - two very expensive production methods - were seen as economically viable ways to deal with the energy crisis. At that time, the price of oil was above $140 a barrel.
Now that the price has fallen below $75 a barrel, and could go even lower, many experts say the future of these projects is uncertain.
Oil companies are quick to point out that big drilling projects are long-term investments, which are not based on today's oil price, but on what they think the price will be in the future.
Indeed, some deep water projects have a life span of 20 to 30 years. And some producers expect to be mining Canada's oil sands for up to 40 years.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The effect of lower oil prices on future oil exploration