Lower Oil Prices Concern Financial Executives
The slide in oil prices over the second-half of the year is having an effect on energy executives in the United States as they look ahead to the upcoming year. In fact, nearly half of all chief financial officers in the oil and gas industry who were polled said that low fossil fuel prices were likely to be their biggest financial concern in 2015. That was an increase of 55 percent in the number of executives who said the same thing a year ago, according to the BDO USA 2015 Energy Outlook Survey, a new report from BDO USA LLP.
In another indication of worry, the number of CFOs who said a decline in prices was the chief factor putting a ceiling on growth rose by 68 percent, according to the report.
“The past six months have seen the oil markets return to the volatility that has historically characterized the industry,” said Charles Dewhurst, partner and leader of the Natural Resources practice at BDO. “However, while headlines may be saying these price declines herald the end of the shale boom, U.S. companies have been preparing for a return to fluctuations and are well-equipped to navigate through this transitional period.”
Their concern is understandable; crude oil prices have slid into the $60- a-barrel (bbl)-range from over $100/bbl last summer. While companies can still make money on oil in the $60s/-bbl range by focusing on fields with the highest returns, and by maximizing efficiencies – 56 percent say they plan to cut costs and seek efficiencies – they remain wary of future fluctuations, according to the study.
The survey, which was conducted from data collected between September and November, showed that while crude oil prices are of concern, most industry executives are more bullish, though still wary, about the future for natural gas, expecting natural gas production to grow in 2015.
Tax and legislative concerns were other areas of focus for the CFOs, the survey revealed, particularly given that the oil and gas industry is “one of the most heavily regulated in the country,” according to Clark Sackschewsky, a partner with BDO’s natural resources practice.
“Taxes will always be a particular concern, as incentives like the IDC are instrumental in fostering industry growth and, by extension, economic growth,” Sackschewsky said.
Perhaps as a reaction to public perceptions about fracking in particular, and energy companies in general, nearly two-thirds of the energy executives polled planned to focus on environmental regulation in the coming year, and about one-third cited the as priority issues water pollution and the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.