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Unbridled enthusiasm has given way to cautious attitudes and some pessimism within the global upstream industry over the course of this year. Compared to the bullish statements and optimistic forecasts made 12 months ago, many industry players and observers are now digging in for an extended period of uncertainty and reduced activity.
The single largest factor behind the deterioration of activity levels and expectations is the steady erosion of oil and gas prices throughout 2001. From a high of roughly $30/bbl in fourth-quarter 2000, average world crude prices have declined to only about $20/bbl in fourth-quarter 2001. Meanwhile, average U.S. natural gas prices at the wellhead have fallen from a high of more than $8/Mcf last January, to only about $3/Mcf at the end of third-quarter 2001. Because such a high proportion of U.S. and Canadian rig activity was tied to drilling for gas, the drop in gas prices has been particularly harmful.
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