Gloomy Forecast: Oil Industry Bankruptcies Increase 471%

May 9, 2023

At the beginning of September 2014, the price of a barrel of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed at $95.96 per barrel. By the beginning of 2015, the price had dropped approximately 56% to $53.27, slightly more than half what it had been a year earlier, on the first trading day of 2014, at $98.42. The fourth quarter of 2014 brought an historic drop in the price of oil: a drop that set loose a disastrous shakeout of the oil industry.

From the beginning of the decline in the price of oil through the end of the year 2015, no fewer than 80 upstream companies filed for bankruptcy protection. Contrasted with the same period the previous year (Fourth quarter 2013 to the end of 2014), that is an increase in corporate failures of roughly 471%. While it comes as no surprise that low oil prices cause bankruptcies in the oil industry, the data on these bankruptcies yields surprising conclusions; both about the industry as a whole and its future (or lack thereof).

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