US shale oil output continues to shatter records, but the forecast for monthly production growth has shrunk by more than half over the past year, with five straight months of less than 1%, an analysis of US Energy Information Administration data shows.
While overall US shale oil output is forecast to grow in September by nearly 17% year on year -- and more by than 44% from September 2017 -- the recent, relative declines in month-on-month forecast growth signals the explosive growth of US shale may be temporarily on hold.
The EIA on Monday forecast US shale oil output would climb to nearly 8.77 million b/d in September, an 85,000 b/d or 0.98% increase from August.
"In this relatively low crude price environment, producers have been trying to remain capital disciplined in 2019 by reducing overall costs and cutting back on rig activity through the first half of the year," said Matt Andre, an analyst at S&P Global Platts Analytics.
The EIA's production growth forecast for August slipped below 0.6% in July.
Monthly growth forecasts have fallen steadily since May last year, when it saw June 2018 growth of just over 2%.
Forecast monthly US shale growth has averaged below 0.8% for the past three months and has fallen below 1% in six months this year, according to an analysis of the EIA's Drilling Productivity Report data.
The EIA does not publish actual production data corresponding to the growth forecasts.
The recent slowdown in supply growth is caused by a lack of pipeline capacity, relatively low oil prices and a push by shale operators toward more free cash flow, according to Jamie Webster, senior director at Boston Consulting Group's Center for Energy Impact.
"I would say this is part of a maturing of the sector as it realizes it really does need to return cash back to investors rather than reinvesting in perpetuity," Webster said. "And as the bigger players take a larger share of production, this will accelerate."