Sheffield has since embarked on an extreme belt-tightening regimen at the Irving, Texas-based producer. Pioneer is cutting more than one-quarter of its workforce, including a cadre of senior executives, in part through layoffs and buyouts. Among those who are leaving is Mr. The million-barrel-a-day goal? Sheffield tries to convince skeptics that Pioneer is a shale company that can live within its means. Shale drillers transformed the U.
But after years of losing money, they are coming under intense pressure from investors and Wall Street financiers to boost returns. Companies long valued on growth prospects are seeing new capital dry up as many find it more expensive than anticipated to meet lofty production goals. Under pressure to generate positive cash flows, executives are slashing overhead and dialing back drilling plans.
As the frenzy slows, the pace of U. Many older wells are falling short of expectations, and some operators acknowledge that they have fewer future drilling locations than they once predicted. During that time, a broad index of U. Should U. Join the conversation below.
At Pioneer, some employees were concerned about the feasibility of meeting the million-barrel-a-day target set by senior executives, former employees said in interviews with the Journal. Pioneer said in a written statement the target was achievable and designed to challenge employees, noting that Exxon Mobil Corp.
Pioneer added that it encourages employees to debate the assumptions used to make decisions.
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Sheffield said the company had become overly focused on growth. Shale wells produce a lot of oil and gas early on, but taper off quickly, meaning drillers must continuously plow money back into the ground to maintain output. The Journal previously reported that thousands of wells drilled in the last five years are producing less oil and gas than companies forecast to investors. Pioneer was formed in after Mr. At the time, the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, once a powerhouse oil field that helped the Allied campaign in World War II, had turned into a sleepy province of smaller, low-margin companies.
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In one deal after another, Mr. Sheffield, a Dallas native and petroleum engineer trained at the University of Texas, steered Pioneer toward international prospects. He always kept his eye on the Permian Basin, associates say, refusing to sell its holdings there because he valued the predictable returns. The innovations led to a renaissance for the Permian , which has since become the chief engine of the American shale boom.
Sheffield emerged as its central pitchman. He developed a knack for using figures that forecast the scale of the coming boom, frequently comparing the Permian to prolific areas of Saudi Arabia. In , he said the company had an inventory of wells to last as many as years. That year he told Forbes he believed Pioneer could increase its output to one million barrels a day by , from about , barrels.
Infusions of money from Wall Street, eager for a piece of the fracking action, fueled growth at Pioneer and other shale companies. In August , Mr.
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The company acknowledged that capital spending exceeded operating cash flow in , but said it is focused on changing that in and beyond. Sources: Company disclosures production ; FactSet free cash flow, net income, stock. In late , Mr. Sheffield pushed back the timeline of the million-barrel goal by two years, to That left his handpicked successor, Mr. In early , he gathered employees at a Dallas opera house to formally unveil the goal, a move that took some employees by surprise. Some employees were less confident. Login or Register.
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