MRC Global InSight

United States of America

In addition to the impact of low oil prices, the U.S. began facing the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Sweeping lockdowns of non-essential businesses and stay-at-home orders left an immediate and lasting impact on the business environment. The combination of these two events has created very difficult business conditions for many of MRC Global’s customers.

Upstream Production

Upstream production activity in the U.S. has been cut dramatically. Overall, budgets were reduced by 50% or more for the combined population of integrated oil companies (IOC) and independent operators.


Overall, budgets were reduced by 50% or more for the combined population of integrated oil companies (IOC) and independent operators.


Industry analysts now indicate that when considering the reduced CAPEX budgets, on average, 60% of the CAPEX was spent in the first half of the year, leaving only 40% of the already reduced amount to be spent in the balance of the year. Through July 2020, 32 operators have filed for bankruptcy protection with more expected during the remainder of the year.

Midstream Pipeline

Although not as severely impacted as the upstream production sector, the U.S. midstream pipeline sector also experienced spending pullbacks by most of the pipeline transmission and gathering companies. The sharp decline in oil and natural gas prices caused the vast majority of pipeline operators to reduce CAPEX budgets and delay or cancel projects.

The steady decline in the cost of carbon steel pipe (year-over-year down 19%) was not enough to motivate the pipeline sector to install its backlog of projects. The dramatic decline in rig counts and the subsequent loss of oil and natural gas production from those wells have resulted in a significantly reduced need for gathering lines and transmission capacity required to transport the production. Additionally, liquified natural gas (LNG) shipments to offshore locations are down significantly due to COVID-19 impacts across the globe, and therefore, the need for natural gas transmission infrastructure to produce the LNG has been impacted as well, although to a lesser degree than other sectors.

Downstream & Industrial

Not immune from the macro events of 2020, the downstream and industrial sector, which includes refining, chemicals, petrochemicals, steel production, power generation, pulp and paper and other industrial business segments, has also experienced significant withdrawals and declines in most product consumption and spending. As Americans sheltered in place for extended periods of time, energy use plunged, most notably gasoline and jet fuel. Most companies in this segment either cancelled or delayed turnarounds and future projects in an effort to reduce spend.

Gas Utilities

The one segment of business where our customers were the least impacted by the 2020 events is the gas utilities sector. Unlike the other segments, gas utility companies are generally immune from the fluctuating price of natural gas.


The one segment of business where our customers were least impacted by the 2020 events is the gas utilities sector.


They are not, however, immune to COVID-19. While integrity work and growth projects in this sector have continued, service activity has declined or been postponed in an effort to maintain social distancing by not initially sending employees into customers’ homes and businesses during the pandemic.