The outlook for the worldwide exploration and production (E&P) sector, according to Moody’s Investors Service, “remains positive,” the company said in a report June 2.
The “Steady Commodity Prices Fuel E&P Industry” report said that growth would continue during the next year to 18 months."The positive outlook reflects our view that industry EBITDA will grow in the mid-to-high single digits over the next one to two years," said Stuart Miller, vice president and senior credit officer.
"Stable oil and natural gas prices will enable E&P companies to continue to invest with confidence, driving production and cash flow higher," he added.
With oil prices hovering near $100 a barrel, investment will remain robust into 2015, Miller said.
Investments would only “fall materially” for companies like Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO), Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL) or Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp. (NYSE: KOG), the report said Natural gas prices grew stronger due to record-low natural gas storage levels, the report added, noting that prices are still above $4.00 per thousand cubic feet—and should stay there “for the next few years.” With this forecast, companies like Southwestern Energy Co. (NYSE: SWN), EQT Corp. (NYSE: EQT) and Ultra Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: UPL) “will be able to grow production by maintaining or increasing the number of operating rigs” they have, according to the study.
Moody’s saw the shift to resource development from exploration as something that contributed to the positive outlook.
"Now that many companies have completed the preliminary leasing and testing of prospective unconventional resource plays, capital efficiency will improve as they spend more on drilling and completing wells," Miller said.
He added, "The use of extended horizontal laterals and pad drilling will improve the industry's return on investment this year and next."
However, Moody’s noted, “a lack” of midstream infrastructure would hamper the industry’s progress—although “to a lesser extent than in the past few years. When these infrastructures are improved, the potential production growth rates for companies like Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR) and Oasis Petroleum Inc. (NYSE: OAS) in the Bakken, and Range Resources Corp. (NYSE: RRC) and Antero Resources Corp. (NYSE: AR) in the Marcellus, would be "unshackled," Moody's said.
New York-based Moody’s Investors Service is the bond credit rating section of Moody’s Corp. (NYSE: MCO), a holding company.