MRC Global InSight

United States of America

As we head into 2021, there is reason to be optimistic. Oil prices have rebounded to around $60 per barrel and rig counts have increased. Additionally, the arrival of a variety of effective vaccines for COVID-19 is having tangible impacts to average daily case counts and positivity rates across the country. As of mid-April, 190,000,000 vaccinations have been administered, 36% of Americans have received at least one dose while 22.3% have been fully vaccinated.4 At the current rate, it is estimated that 500,000,000 vaccinations will be completed by June 2021.

Upstream Production

Drilling activity is recovering from the dramatic downturn of 2020, supported by growing demand for crude, natural gas and gasoline. For the first time in over a year, gas consumption has increased year-over-year indicating that Americans are driving more as states relax COVID-19 lockdowns and protocols.


For the first time in over a year, gas consumption has increased year-over-year indicating that Americans are driving more...


CAPEX levels for E&P companies are generally flat with smaller independents outpacing CAPEX investments versus a more disciplined approach from larger integrated oil companies.

Midstream Pipeline

Midstream pipeline activity is also increasing, albeit at a much slower pace than in previous industry recoveries. The dramatic decrease in rig counts in 2020 had a direct and significant impact on planned pipeline construction with many projects canceled or postponed. Steep increases in the price of steel have also created a barrier to new pipeline activity. Hot rolled coil, the major component of steel line pipe, has increased to new levels causing the price of carbon steel line pipe to increase monumentally since its low point in August 2020.

Downstream & Industrial

The downstream and industrial sector, which includes refining, chemicals, petrochemicals, steel production, power generation, pulp and paper and other industrial business segments, experienced significant withdrawals and declines in most product consumption and spending in 2020. As Americans sheltered in place for extended periods of time, energy use plunged, most notably that of gasoline and jet fuel. Most companies in this segment either canceled or delayed turnarounds and future projects to reduce spend. As we emerge from COVID-19 required lockdowns, we are now seeing a tangible and welcome increase in activity for our downstream customers. Many of the projects and plant turnarounds that were canceled or postponed are now coming forward in 2021. Additionally, the winter storm experienced by the southern portion of the country in February 2021 caused widespread damage to many facilities, creating the need for immediate repairs. In some cases, additional work that had been postponed in 2020 was performed while these plants were idled.

Gas Utilities

The one segment of business where our customers were the least impacted by the 2020 events is the gas utility sector, although there was a minor decrease in activity due to COVID-19 protocols. Unlike the other segments, gas utility companies are generally not impacted from the fluctuating price of natural gas. As we enter 2021, the gas utility segment is seeing robust upticks in activity as they play catch up from 2020 and engage in new construction and integrity work required to keep their systems operating safely.


As we enter 2021, the gas utility segment is seeing robust upticks in activity as they play catch up from 2020...


Many utilities are re-designing systems to reduce the need to enter homes and businesses going forward.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations. Accessed April 15, 2021.