From early June 2014 when the price of oil was over $100 until now, the oilfield has seen its share of changes. Bankruptcies and price, wage, job and cost cuts are found all over the headlines. One thing is certain, more changes are on the way.
In times like these, in our day to day battles for survival, we can often take our eyes off the future. However, it is important that we keep our eyes on the horizon and ears to the rail. The deals that many companies will look back on in five years (or possibly sooner) and say “Why didn’t we do that?” are out there now…if we are open to looking and if we are looking hard enough.
Most of my dealings in the oilfield are in the Permian Basin and Southern Louisiana and most of the companies I interact with would best be described as “middle market” with some on the smaller end. So, my sample size is limited, skewed and biased, so please take these next thoughts with a grain of salt.
Speaking to contacts in the oilfield, I am hearing “optimism” for the first time in a long time. Eighteen, twelve, nine, six and three months ago this “optimism” did not exist; everyone was thinking negatively, black clouds, doom and gloom, blood in the streets. However, just like Spring brings a fresh look on the world after a dreary winter, I sense a change in the mood in the field.
This “optimism” isn’t overt, it is not directly stated and it is certainly not full on $100/barrel optimism. It is an optimism based on things in the oilfield starting to make sense once again. Cost cuts and other operating efficiencies have projects that were once thought to be uneconomic, making sense even in today’s market. Companies are starting to invest in the technologies that will provide them current benefits and position them for operational and financial success in the future. Most of my contacts are telling me that the pricing expectations on deals are at the point that they make sense again. Land deals, production deals, midstream deals, etc. all starting to make sense. Again, I don’t think we are there yet (wherever “there” is now), but it appears that the mood is improving.
Hope can be a dangerous thing but after we have done the hard work making sure our companies will be around, hope helps focus our attention on the future and what it holds. Hopefully this “optimism” will translate into an increase in field activity and an increase in M&A activity with the strong gobbling up the weak or with the strong uniting with the strong. An increase in positive activity, any positive activity, is a welcome sign in the oilfield.
So, let’s all make sure we are practicing “Surthrival”, a made up word that reminds us that we must focus not only on surviving but thriving as well. Survival is very important, job #1 and occupies the 1st rung on Maslow’s hierarchy. However, an exclusive focus on survival overlooks the current opportunities in the marketplace that will help our companies thrive in the future.