US oil ‘stripper well’ operators adopt new strategies to keep afloat amid crude slump

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US “stripper well” operators, the nation’s smallest oil producers seen as most likely to succumb to the crude price slump, are hanging in tough, reducing the chances of near-term production cuts needed to rebalance the domestic oil market.

The conventional wisdom is that “strippers” would be the first to fold in the face of oil’s slide below US$40 given their tiny size – some may pump as little as few hundred dollars’ worth of oil a day – limited access to capital and high costs compared with bigger, more efficient shale producers.

Yet interviews with executives and experts show those smallest, often family-owned, businesses are also among the most resourceful, keeping the oil flowing even as prices near 11-year lows and a growing number of their wells lose money.

While hopes for a rebound are fading, “strippers” are doing everything they can to keep their “nodding donkey” pumps working so they can hold on to land leases that give them access to oil reserves.

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