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July 13, 2021

U.S. crude oil production efficiency increased only in the Bakken region in 2020

first month oil production per new well
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Drilling Productivity Report (DPR), based on data from Enverus

In 2020, U.S. initial crude oil production per well, or well production efficiency, increased significantly in the Bakken region, according to our Drilling Productivity Report (DPR), which we update monthly. Productivity in other drilling regions remained largely steady or decreased slightly, DPR data shows.

The DPR synthesizes several different types of information (for example, the initial production of new wells) to represent the current rate of rig productivity growth or decline. To calculate rig-based production, the DPR uses indicators, including the active rig count, drilling efficiency and the productivity of new wells, and production and depletion trends for previously producing wells. The main oil-producing regions of the DPR are the Anadarko, Bakken, Eagle Ford, Niobrara, and Permian.

average oil production per well in selected regions
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Drilling Productivity Report (DPR), based on data from Enverus

Production from a well typically declines over time as the hydrocarbons from the formation around the wellbore are depleted and the pressure drops. Unlike for the other regions, the 2020 decline curve for the Eagle Ford region starts with less production per well than in the other regions from month 0 to month 4. However, the Eagle Ford region's curve turns and peaks higher than the 2019 and 2018 decline curves from month 5 to month 13, suggesting that new well production was curtailed during the early months of 2020.

In all regions except the Bakken region, average new-well oil production peaked in 2019. Because some new wells were curtailed in the second quarter of 2020, we expect productivity to increase in all regions when drilling activities return to pre-pandemic levels. Almost half of all 2020 wells in all DPR regions were completed in the first quarter of 2020, before the significant oil price decline and demand reduction in response to COVID-19.

Because some wells completed in 2020 have not begun reporting, we expect the curves to change slightly as the number of unreported wells decrease. We estimate that the Anadarko region has the most unreported new wells among the DPR regions and that the Bakken region has the most complete reporting of 2020 new wells.

Total oil production from all DPR regions, except the Permian region, declined in 2020 because of significantly reduced drilling activity and production curtailments. The reduced drilling activity was caused by reduced oil demand and low oil prices. Despite the decrease in all but one DPR region, total oil production in the DPR regions accounted for 70% of total U.S. crude oil production in 2020, increasing from 69% in 2019, as a result of the oil production increase in the Permian region.

Principal contributors: Jozef Lieskovsky, Richard Yan