'We're in an era of post-US shale hypergrowth. US shale is no longer growing more than global demand, and so there's a call on global super majors, but they can't pick up." - Eric Nuttall
Countries (like Nigeria, Angola) are underproducing, forsaking 100's of million of dollars per month. Because they have had the inability to invest new productive capacity. So there are very few members of OPEC that can actually meaningfully grow oil production. Many, including maybe Russia, are near their productive capacity.
We might see OPEC fair capacity exhaustion by the end of this year, which would be very bullish for the oil price, said Nuttall. But only energy producers and investors want higher prices. Therefore, even if Russia were to actually invade Ukraine, it is thought there wouldn't really be sanctions. Politically, democratic leaders maybe can't allow the oil price to go up much further. This might mean relaxing on Iran (the last suppressed producer which could easily come on line), also.
What allows oil producing companies to return the most free cash flow back to investors is long-life reserves, low corporate declines, and strong balance sheets. Canada has the best of all 3 of any jurisdiction in the world, but has among the lowest stock prices, according to Nuttall.
If there is $100 oil, they can privatize themselves, they can buy back every single share that is standing in just 2.6 years, while they are sitting on 15 years of inventory.
He said we're not 'high' in inventory, we're 'normal,' we're back to like the period 2010-2014 (in that 4-year time period, oil averaged over $100 and yet demand continued growing). We're not at the point where high price leads to demand discretion yet, he said, and won't until we see $130 or $140 oil, if like academic history it happens when oil hits 5-6% of global GDP. Nowadays, exhausting capacity plus end of US shale hypergrowth, the fundamental setup is more bullish than 2010-2014.
Because investors want returns (not growth of production), oil companies will continue to pay down debt, do dividends and increase dividends, moderate growth, moderate corporate decline (a company doesn't have to spend as much to keep their production up), rather than start new projects (multi-billion cost and then 4-6 years to come on line and then another 4 years to reach project payout). That means meaningfully higher oil prices.
He thinks demand will continue to grow for 10-15 years.
The perception of 'bad, dirty' oil has over the past years taken investors out, but now they're being 'dragged back in.'