A lame-duck Texas regulator who had proposed mandating oil production cuts is now calling those efforts “dead” a day before the state was set to vote on the measure.
Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton said in an interview on Bloomberg TV that the three-member agency wasn’t prepared to vote on curtailing output in a process known as “pro-rationing.” His comments likely mark the end of a month-and-a-half-long saga that pitted members of the shale industry against each other, with companies sparring over whether US states should mimic OPEC by forcing production caps amid a historic collapse in crude prices.
“At this point we still are not ready to act, and so it’s too late, so there is no proposal to make,” Sitton, one of three Republicans on the commission, said Monday. “I think that pro-ration is now dead.”
Sitton, who lost the primary election for his own seat earlier this year, had been the only member of the Texas Railroad Commission - the state’s chief energy regulator - to come out in favor of production caps. Chairman Wayne Christian recently stated his opposition to cuts in an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle, and Commissioner Christi Craddick had expressed numerous concerns during the agency’s most recent meeting.
Among oil companies, Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Parsley Energy Inc., founded by a father and his son, had been the biggest champions of instituting mandated cuts.
But Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., along with a long list of independent producers, had argued that the market was already driving curtailments and that it was best for the government to stay out of it. The chief executive officer of Enterprise Products Partners LP even went so far as to say that quota-supporting producers were simply trying to skirt contractual obligations.
Sitton’s proposal called for a 20 percent cutback in the state’s output, conditional on other states and nations making similar moves. The measure would have penalized producers who exceeded quotas to the tune of $1,000 a barrel. But Christian and Craddick both said they feared legal repercussions that would make such an effort ineffective.
Producers are already laying down drilling rigs and shutting in existing output. Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips plan to curb as much as 660,000 barrels a day of combined American output by the end of June. Permian Basin producer Concho Resources Inc. has already shut in about 4 percent to five percent of total output and warned last week that it will likely be forced to curtail even more.
“The market forces are stronger than the threat of proration ever was,” Cye Wagner, chairman of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, said by phone.