Recovering global oil demand and drilling activity has made oilfield services firms optimistic about the sector’s prospects not only in the immediate future but also in the medium term.
Oilfield service providers reported second-quarter earnings that beat analyst forecasts. But more importantly, companies specializing in different segments—from fracking to offshore drilling—expressed confidence that the oil services industry now faces a solid recovery in the coming quarters and even years, despite the recent Delta variant surge.
The market also seems to believe that recovering global oil demand will boost drilling activity. Shares of oilfield services firms have rallied over the past year, driven by rising oil prices and demand.
Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB) is up 46.5 percent in the past 12 months, Helmerich & Payne (NYSE: HP) is up 54 percent, Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) stock has gained 24 percent, Baker Hughes (NYSE: BKR) has seen shares rise by 42 percent over the past year, and Transocean (NYSE: RIG) has surged by 159 percent since August 2020.
The rising U.S. rig count and the increase in American crude oil production also support the view that a recovery is underway.
As of August 20, the total rig count in the U.S. was 503 active rigs, up by 249 from the same time last year—the highest rig count since April 2020, but still down sharply from the 790 active rigs in March 2020. The EIA’s estimate for U.S. crude oil production for the week ending August 13 rose by 100,000 bpd for the third week in a row to an average of 11.4 million bpd.
Moreover, the oilfield services sector has now seen a fifth consecutive month of job growth, adding an estimated 6,082 jobs in July, the Energy Workforce & Technology Council said earlier this month in an analysis based on preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The sector has restored around 38,300 positions from a peak of over 115,000 pandemic-related job losses, the council estimates.
Executives at oilfield services firms said in recent weeks that they expect a lasting, possibly a multi-year, recovery in activity and in their business.
The world’s three largest oilfield services providers expect the vaccine-driven recovery in global oil demand to continue through the coming quarters, which they expect will lead to the next upcycle in demand for oil drilling and completions.
“The positive activity momentum we see in North America and international markets today, combined with our expectations for future customer demand, gives us conviction for an unfolding multi-year upcycle,” Jeff Miller, Halliburton’s chairman, president, and CEO, said last month in the Q2 results release.
“Although we recognize the risks presented by the variant strains of the COVID-19 virus, we expect spending and activity levels to gain momentum through the year as the macro environment improves, likely setting up the industry for stronger growth in 2022,” Baker Hughes chairman and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli said.
“With oil price at elevated levels, the supply response to this demand recovery is developing broadly as anticipated. Indeed, this combination has resulted in a call on short-cycle production as well as an uptick in long-cycle project, reflected in new FIDs and encouraging recovery in both offshore developments and near-field exploration activity through the second quarter,” Schlumberger CEO Olivier Le Peuch said on the Q2 earnings call.
Helmerich & Payne CEO John Lindsay said at the end of July, “Assuming oil prices remain stable and near current levels, we would not be surprised to see 2022 budgets for public companies drive further incremental increases in rig activity next year.”
The Permian will continue to lead the way in active rig gains, Helmerich & Payne says.
Midland, Texas-based ProPetro Holding, which provides pressure pumping for fracking in North America, said in early August that “the pressure pumping industry is faced with an impending reinvestment cycle that will require innovative solutions to meet the needs of the market.”
“As we navigate the COVID-19 delta and potentially other variants, volatility will remain, but oil price fundamentals appear strong for a continued recovery,” ProPetro chairman CEO Phillip Gobe said.
“Timing remains uncertain as we’re still in the early innings of what we view as a multiyear recovery,” he added.
Outside the United States, recovery is also underway and will accelerate in the coming months, executives say.
“Supported by the ongoing conversations with our customers, we believe we are at the beginning of a sustainable recovery for offshore drilling. Assuming oil prices remain constructive, we believe we will witness a robust offshore market recovery in 2022 and beyond,” Transocean’s CEO Jeremy Thigpen said on the Q2 earnings call earlier this month.