Bob Balzer

BD - Upstream Sector

The upstream marketplace has experienced considerable activity over the past few years, as growing global demand and shifting resources have introduced new horizons to the oil and gas industry. In 2014, US demand for oil is expected to remain stable, while domestic production is likely to reduce imports of light crude to nominal levels. Alternatively, US natural gas activity is projected to ramp-up in the middle of year, replenishing depleted storage levels caused by colder winter weather. Overall, the US rig count is expected to increase 2% to 4%, while the more heavily monitored well count and footage drilled forecasts are estimating 6% to 8% growth over 2013 levels1. In general, MRC Global expects US upstream activity to increase 2% to 4%, with a majority of business being recognized during 2nd and 3rd quarter 2014.

Exports of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) continue to be influential in the upstream market, as construction on system infrastructure begins for an estimated 2015 start-date. Additionally, as these facilities begin to ramp-up for delivery, an increasing number of start-up plants are submitting plans for review. Fueled primarily by stable natural gas prices, the total scope for US LNG exports still remains unclear. However, preliminary activity appears to be setting the groundwork for multi-national opportunity.

Meanwhile, conversations surrounding the export of domestic crude remain ever-present, with US production approaching historic levels. The resulting decline in US crude imports has been fueled by the continued practice of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which is fundamental for estimated production levels in 2014. However, mid-term, US oil production is expected to overtake demand, further motivating export dialogues. Opinions remain split on the future for crude exports. Supportive legislation is expected to face a number of hurdles, including anti-fracking sentiment and resistance to potentially adverse impacts to the domestic refining industry.

With the changing market atmosphere and progressively international landscape, MRC Global anticipates slight alterations to customer demand. Primarily, the forecasted moderate growth across the US upstream sector should deliver additional interest for commonly sourced exploration and production commodities. Focus will likely shift to line pipe and items associated with well-completion, as end-users look to increase cycle-time efficiencies. Similarly, improved productivity goals are likely to influence customers to seek larger material catalogs with simplified fulfillment processes to furnish total project solutions. MRC Global is expecting adequate lead times, materials availability and price trends for primary upstream commodities. However, impacts to individual product lines should be reviewed for additional detail and could fluctuate with non-forecasted demand.

As always, MRC Global will continue to monitor events and trends in order to mitigate supply chain impacts.

1 Spears & Associates, "Drilling and Production Outlook," March 2014.



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