August 2021

First oil

U.S. shale operators deserve credit for restraint
Kurt Abraham / World Oil

The economy for U.S. operators and service companies during second- and third-quarter 2021 has been stable. Futures prices for WTI crude have remained above $60/bbl since mid-April, and U.S. oil output has remained at 11.0 MMbpd or higher since March. Some credit goes to a U.S. economy rebounding from Covid. Additional credit goes to OPEC+ for showing restraint in adding production. But some credit surely goes to U.S. shale operators for not ramping up activity.

Fig. 1. The famous 1991 cover featuring George H. W. Bush.
Fig. 1. The famous 1991 cover featuring George H. W. Bush.

To wit: The 2021 Baker Hughes rig count average (438.7), as of Aug. 20, is flat with 2020’s average of 441.3. This compares to the 2019 average of 943.2. Now, 2021’s count continues to rise slowly and might—might—hit 550 by the end of the year. This will be enough to satisfy our forecast of 12,908 wells. Meanwhile, API’s completion figures show 11,714 wells for 2020. For 2021, API shows 6,454 wells in quarters 1 and 2, vs. 6,535 wells in first-half 2020 and 10,513 wells in first-half 2019. Yes, indeed, U.S. operators have been restrained. For more on this subject, see Technical Editor Craig Fleming's column on page 72.

Thirty years later. This month marks the 30th anniversary of one of World Oil’s most famous cover photos. As seen in Fig. 1, the August 1991 cover featured a photo of then-President George H. W. Bush, as he had looked in 1959, holding a copy of the August 1959 International Outlook Issue in his hands, during his days at Zapata Offshore. A story in a 1991 issue of Esquire magazine had featured a similar photo of Bush. An industry friend alerted us at World Oil, and we tracked down the photography studio that shot the original photo series and obtained the photo that was placed on the cover. During July 2021, my wife and I visited the revamped Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, and found the copy of the cover still on permanent display, along with the description underneath it. Unfortunately, the library closed again on Aug. 8, indefinitely, due to a spike in local Covid cases.

Help wanted in Kansas. Every year during forecast season, we could never assemble the U.S. numbers we publish without the help of our friends at the state oil and gas agencies. So, we welcome this chance to return the favor. As Rene Stucky, UIC Director/Production Supervisor at the Kansas Corporation Commission told me, his agency is having trouble finding good help. Right now, he has a position open for a professional geologist, as well as a position for a person with some oilfield completion knowledge, who holds any science-oriented degree. Anyone interested can either visit the KCC’s website, Kansas Corporation Commission–Employment Opportunities (, or contact Mr. Stucky directly at and 316-337-6200.

Seen on a Houston street. While driving around town, this editor saw an SUV with a bumper sticker message that was unmistakable. It said, “I don’t have a case of road rage—You’re just an idiot.” 


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Kurt Abraham
World Oil
Kurt Abraham
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