Oil producers set to make record profits in 2021 as crude prices hang above $70/barrel – report

World’s publicly traded oil producers are set to make record profits with crude oil trading above $70 per barrel while investment activity remains low, a Rystad Energy report said.

Their combined free cash flow is expected to surge to $348 billion this year, with the previous high being $311 billion back in 2008, the report said.

Rystad Energy estimates that total gross revenue for all public upstream companies is expected to increase by almost $500 billion in 2021, or 55% compared to last year (excluding hedging effects). At the same time, the investment level of these companies is only expected to grow by around 2% in 2021, resulting in significantly higher profits.

“A key reason for the all-time-high FCF is the turnaround in the US tight oil industry. Historically, this industry has struggled to generate positive returns, but this could change in 2021. We estimate that all public tight oil companies will to make close to $60 billion in FCF this year, before hedging effects,” the report said.

It said that the conventional onshore supply segment is in line to earn the highest level of FCF this year at close to $160 billion – but is still behind the record touched in 2011. Both deepwater and offshore shelf are recovering this year, each ending up with close to $60 billion in FCF. However, tight oil is expected to surpass both these offshore segments in 2021.

“Oil demand has gradually increased after the initial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, and OPEC+ continues to hold back volumes from the market. The consequent high price movement has been further supported by a slow ramp-up in US tight oil activity. In conjunction with the persisting low investment environment, E&Ps are enjoying super-profits,” said Espen Erlingsen, head of upstream research at Rystad Energy.

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