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In a remarkable change of fortune, US shale operators are suddenly making real money, while being more constrained with growing production than in the past. But after many years of improving well results, productivity as measured per lateral foot appears to have peaked since 2016.

In this article we analyze these developments in the 4 major US tight oil plays. We also highlight the top operators and rank them by recent well performance.

This article covers the following topics:

  1. Total production
  2. Drilling activity & tight oil outlook
  3. Well productivity
  4. Top oil producers
  5. Operator productivity ranking

1) Total production

Total oil production from the over 85 thousand horizontal wells in these basins has stabilized, after a very rough 1.5 year period, to 6.6 million b/d in August:


Total oil production in the 4 major US tight oil basins, through August, by vintage.

2) Drilling activity & tight oil outlook

The horizontal rig count has steadily increased since the low in September last year to 335 in early November. The share of horizontal rigs in the Permian basin has slightly fallen, to 77% (257), down from 80% in early June, indicating that also other basins now benefit from increased activity.

Our tight oil outlook has significantly risen in the last year. With the current level of drilling, and assuming no changes in well/rig productivity, we expect output to continue to grow in the coming months and years. Eventually, a level over 8 million b/d could be sustained with these conditions, higher than the historical peak in November 2019:


Horizontal rig count and tight oil outlook in the 4 US shale oil basins

This does however assume that well productivity stays constant, which is far from certain.

3) Well productivity

Well productivity has radically increased over the years, especially driven by longer laterals and higher proppant loadings. Normalized for lateral length however, well results have not moved much since 2016, on average:


Well performance (oil rate vs. cum. oil per 1,000'), by vintage. Hz. wells since 2010 only.

The horizontal wells completed in the last 5 years are trending towards an EUR of 45k barrels of oil, per 1,000' of lateral length.

4) Top oil producers

The following overview ranks the top-10 oil producers within these basins, through August 2021:


Top 10 US shale oil operators, production history and well locations.

Despite recent improvements in operating conditions, most of these operators saw production declines in the last 1.5 years, with Occidental displaying the most dramatic drop (~40%).

5) Operator productivity ranking

In the following chart, from our Productivity Ranking dashboard, you can find a ranking of all major tight oil operators with at least 200 operated wells, based on average well productivity, which is measured by the average cumulative oil production in the first 18 months, normalized by 1,000' of lateral length. Only horizontal oil wells with a production start after 2015 are included.


Magnolia Oil & Gas, a pure Eagle Ford player, demonstrated the best results, with almost 45 thousand barrels of oil per 1,000 ft of lateral length, on average (201 wells).

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Want to further explore industry data?

You can directly request a free trial via to try out ShaleProfile Analytics for 10 days.

*All the graphs shown today come from our ShaleProfile Analytics service, which is an online analytics platform filled with interactive dashboards that allow you to explore the most recent shale oil & gas related data

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Apparently they are doing well enough to lower prices $3.00 per barrel overnight when Biden complains about the price?

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