World's oil bosses eyeing more pain try to look past 2016

Thu Feb 25, 2016 9:33am EST
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By Ernest Scheyder, Anna Driver and Ron Bousso

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The world's top oil executives gathered in Houston this week seem to agree on one thing: this year is set to be so horrible that many skip right to 2017 and beyond to talk about hopes for market rebalancing that so far has eluded the battered industry.

In April 2015, the energy sector's biggest annual conference was abuzz with speculation when oil prices might bottom and the idea that prices could hover below $60 for years after tumbling from over $100 seven months earlier was considered a sobering one.

This time, with prices near $30 and last year's "lower for longer" catch phrase replaced by "even lower for even longer," oil executives attending the IHS CERAWeek conference are more solemn and guarded in their predictions.

"This year we are in a survival mode," Juan Carlos Echeverry, chief executive of Colombia's national oil company Ecopetrol told the conference on Tuesday.

John Hess, chief executive of Hess Corp (HES.N: Quote), one of the independent U.S. shale producers, said the industry appeared to be only halfway through its downturn.

"It's probably a three-year process and we're in the middle of that rebalancing now," he said.

Stephen Chazen, CEO of Occidental Petroleum (OXY.N: Quote), agreed, but warned that hopes to see the market rebound can make people too optimistic.

"Usually you get a false bottom, or two or three or four," Oxy's CEO said.   Continued...

John Hess, CEO of the Hess Corporation, speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.  REUTERS/Daniel Kramer