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Decline in ‘Fracklog’ Shows Scale of Pullback by U.S. Shale Drillers

  • Servicers take hit as explorers prize profits over production
  • Key for earnings may be how quickly drillers pivot from shale
Machinery used to fracture shale formations stands at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc hydraulic fracking site near Mentone, Texas.
Machinery used to fracture shale formations stands at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc hydraulic fracking site near Mentone, Texas.Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg

As the U.S. shale boom unfolded, the number of oil wells that were drilled but never opened for production steadily rose. Now, that figure has plunged by a surprising 10% in the newest sign yet of tough times for drillers.

A weighty decline in the so-called fracklog is perhaps the most salient gauge of a developing slowdown in U.S. shale. It shows that explorers are no longer racing to drill wells faster than they can complete them.