Oil Crash Continues To Claim Bankruptcy Victims In U.S. Shale Patch

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By Charles Kennedy

After a wave of bankruptcies in the third quarter, oil producers and oilfield services companies in the U.S. shale patch continued to file for protection from creditors at the start of the fourth quarter, law firm Haynes and Boone said in its latest tally, warning that the ongoing borrowing base redetermination season could result in more filings.

Filings from exploration and production (E&P) numbered 17 in the third quarter, while another three firms filed for bankruptcy in October, according to Haynes and Boone data as of October 31.

“While the pace of bankruptcy filings for producers has slowed from the wave last summer, the current borrowing base season for oil and gas borrowers may put further pressure on some of the already financially stressed producers. Combined with the general lack of access to capital, additional filings are likely before 2020 comes to a close,” the law firm said.

In the oilfield services sector, 27 North American companies filed for bankruptcy in the third quarter, and nine filed for protection from creditors in October alone, Haynes and Boone’s data showed.

“Many smaller or highly leveraged OFS companies may not be able to hold on and avoid seeking protection of the bankruptcy courts,” Haynes and Boone said.

Between the beginning of 2015 and the end of October 2020, as many as 250 North American oilfield services providers filed for bankruptcy. Another over 250 filings in the industry came from E&P companies in North America, so more than 500 bankruptcies have been filed in the North American oil and gas industry since 2015, Haynes and Boone said.

More bankruptcies are expected by the end of the year, Rystad Energy said at the end of October.

If a WTI Crude average of around $40 per barrel and a Henry Hub price of $3 per MMcf persist in 2021, Rystad Energy expects 54 new E&P bankruptcies next year.

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