Letter to Shareholders
Schlumberger revenue of $35.5 billion in 2015 represented a drop of 27% from 2014 due to customer spending falling as commodity prices weakened during the year. Revenue in North America decreased 39%, driven by a land rig count that ended the year 68% lower than the peak seen in 2014, as well as by pricing pressure that intensified during the year. North American offshore revenue fell more modestly as rigs in the US Gulf of Mexico shifted from exploration to development work, although the overall market in North America was the weakest for oilfield services since 1986. Internationally, revenue declined 21% as customers cut budgets and pressured service pricing, with these effects often exacerbated by activity disruptions, project delays, and cancellations.
In the oil markets, the negative sentiments that had dominated the year accelerated during the fourth quarter after some optimism earlier in the summer. The impact of OPEC lifting production targets to produce at maximum rates, combined with production in North America from unconventional resources declining slower than expected following the April peak, has led to supply continuing to exceed increasing demand. As a result, commodity prices fell dramatically, with oil dropping to a 12-year low by the end of the year. These weaker fundamentals drove industry exploration and production (E&P) capital investment significantly lower.
In the natural gas markets, US production grew to a record of 75 Bcf/d as new fields in the US Gulf of Mexico
were brought into production and supplies from unconventional shale gas and tight oil reservoirs continued to grow. This trend is expected to continue with newly completed pipeline capacity in the northeast United States bringing new supplies. A relatively mild start to the winter together with North American gas storage levels well above the five-year average is keeping natural gas prices low. Internationally, European gas demand growth returned to positive territory. Despite this increased demand, storage levels are at record highs due to ample supply from the North Sea and Russia, as well as from liquefied natural gas (LNG). Demand rebounded in Asia but remained in a downward trend overall. As LNG exports from Australia grow, the region is likely to remain oversupplied with low natural gas prices persisting.
Our financial performance in 2015 was significantly impacted by the large decrease in land activity, particularly in the US, where the year-end land rig count numbered less than 700 rigs. This created massive overcapacity in the land market that impacted pricing levels across a broad range of oilfield services. Internationally, revenue in the Europe, CIS & Africa Area fell by 26% as a result of the weakening Russian ruble, and due to a drop in exploration activities in the North Sea and Sub-Saharan Africa. In Latin America, revenue declined 22% due to decreased activity in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia as a result of sustained budget cuts that led to rig count reductions. Middle East & Asia Area revenue decreased 17% on lower activity in the Asia Pacific region, particularly in Australia, although this was partially offset by robust activity in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman.