Producers Face More Exposure to Oil Slump as Hedges Roll Off

North American oil producers will face more exposure to low prices this year as their protection disappears.

Exploration and production companies have hedged only 15 percent of total production volumes for 2016, according to an IHS Energy report released Friday. That includes 14 percent of oil and 18 percent of natural gas. Small companies have the highest hedges, with 47 percent of oil production hedged at $74.31 per barrel, the report showed.

"For most companies in the sector, 2016 is going to be another very tough year, as plunging revenues lead to balance sheet deterioration, and financial pressures mount," said Paul O’Donnell, principal analyst at IHS and author of the hedging analysis.

For 2017, hedges are expected to further decline to 4 percent of total production. The decline in hedges leaves companies more exposed to spot prices, which have dropped by almost 70 percent since June 2014.

Continental Resources Inc. is among companies not currently looking to increase hedging, Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm said in a Bloomberg TV interview on earlier this month.

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