The shale revolution may have made the United States the world’s largest natural gas producer, but it has failed to make the biggest U.S. shale gas drillers any richer.
Frackers in the top shale gas basin, the Appalachia, continue to bleed cash, despite the deep cuts in capital expenditures this year as a result of the plunge in gas prices in the first half of 2020 due to mild winter early in the year and depressed demand later on with the pandemic.
Nine of the biggest shale gas producers in Appalachia cut their capex in Q3 by over one-third compared to the same period of last year. Despite these deep cuts, six of those drillers booked negative free cash flows in the third quarter, while the combined free cash flow of the nine firms was a negative US$504 million, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said in an analysis last week.
“The shale revolution has turned the U.S. into the world’s most prolific gas producer. Yet in financial terms, the gas production boom has been an unmitigated financial bust, with most fracking-focused companies, including major Appalachian gas companies, regularly reporting negative free cash flows,” IEEFA analysts Kathy Hipple, Clark Williams-Derry, and Director of Financial Analysis, Tom Sanzillo, wrote in the report.