Oil prices have bounced around a lot since 2014 highs, but it's starting to look like the uptrend might continue, at least for a while. In this Industry Focus: Energy segment, Motley Fool analysts talk about a few technology advancements that affected the oil industry this year, what the future for oil could look like for the next few years and decades, how OPEC's production cuts might extend into next year, and more.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Dec. 21, 2017.
Sarah Priestley: But oil prices from their 2014 lows are back up to, some people are suggesting almost $60 a barrel is within reach. What do you make of the oil price moves this year?
Taylor Muckerman: It's been a much better year than the previous few. You've seen shale come rolling back. U.S. is producing, again, at record levels, and forcing OPEC to extend its production cuts. Russia joining along with that. So, pipeline disruptions both in the U.S. and internationally for various reason, also helping boost the price of oil. Long-term, still questioning the investment thesis over the next decade, but certainly in the coming months into years, there's some bright spots with shale, offshore oil becoming a little bit more cost-effective. If we can continue to put pressure on the Middle East, signs are good for U.S. oil producers and pipelines and service companies, especially the petrochemical sector that's benefiting from cheaper natural gas and cheaper oil and really booming on the Gulf Coast.
Priestley: Absolutely. I think shale had their best quarter since the crash last quarter, so really good signs. Honestly, this has been a great shake-up for the industry in terms of lowering the cost per barrel of extraction, too. As oil prices go up, hopefully they're going to enjoy better and better margins on those.
Muckerman: Yeah, you're seeing a few companies now get into AI and big data analysis to really help boost these wells. We're moving away from technology advancements under the ground; we're now talking about supercomputers. BP says they have the most powerful computer, maybe, in the world, analyzing data. So definitely some room for growth on that side of the business, and that will continue to hopefully lower the cost per barrel, and make the supply size out there continue to grow. Not necessarily great for the producers, if they continue to lower their cost, and you continue to produce more and more and more as demand begins to flatline or maybe strength, but certainly good for consumers in the long run, you would imagine.
Priestley: Absolutely. And one headline that's been fairly recent has been OPEC, as you touched on their announcement in November, that they would extend to the oil production cut. Some accredited the oil production cut with hoping to keep prices up, and it's definitely contributed. Were you surprised to see that they extended?
Muckerman: No, not at all. Basically, I expected that, as reliant as these countries are on the price of oil being high, they still need to do everything in their power. Shale bounced back harder than I think any of them expected, and we haven't seen that let up. The rig count is still far lower than it was at its peak in 2014, and yet we're producing at record levels. So yeah, I think that production cut was necessary for them and could be extended even further beyond the June or July date that they've set so far.
Priestley: Yeah, definitely, if Saudi Arabia has its say, too. Their IPO of Saudi Aramco next year is probably going to depend a lot on the price of oil.