PwC sees energy sector dealmaking increasing this year as some companies are forced into bankruptcy and as both private equity firms and oil and gas corporations with strong balance sheets go bargain hunting.
"For M&A activity to resume at a reasonable pace, it will take buyers who are patient and have long-term perspective on the potential value of the assets while it will take some motivation from sellers who have few other liquidity options and are able to get reasonable value under the circumstances," said Seenu Akunuri, PwC's US oil and gas valuation practice leader.
The upstream segment, comprised of companies that explore for and produce oil and natural gas, accounted for the largest number and volume of deals worth $50 million or more, with 21 totaling $9.7 billion.
Dealmaking in the fourth quarter slowed to a trickle in U.S. shale oil plays, where drillers use a process called hydraulic fracturing to bombard shale rocks with water, chemicals and minerals at high pressure to free oil and gas.
OPEC's production policy is seen as directly targeting these high-cost producers.
Texas' prolific Permian Basin attracted five deals worth a total of $1.5 billion. Just one deal worth north of $50 million was struck in other areas, including North Dakota's Bakken, the Northeast's Marcellus Shale, and the western Niobrara formation.