While there is still plenty of shale oil to produce, drillers have already burned through the best acreage in some of the nation's shale fields, LeBlanc said. Other regions could soon be headed for what he calls "sweet spot exhaustion."
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This is already playing out in some mature regions, like the Barnett Shale in Texas and the Fayetteville in Arkansas. In the coming years it could be a problem in North Dakota's Bakken and the Eagle Ford in southern Texas, LeBlanc said.
However, if technology can improve faster than rock-quality degrades, drillers can keep growing production and even lower the cost of extracting oil, according to LeBlanc. But if advances in technology can't keep up with the hollowing out of the best wells, then drillers won't be able to deploy cash efficiently.
"The thing that delays sweet-spot exhaustion is technology," LeBlanc said.
"That's going to determine whether you get growth through the 2030s or 2023."
Drillers weathered the three-year oil price downturn by securing discounts from service companies and moving their rigs to places where they could produce oil at low cost. At the same time, they've improved efficiency by drilling longer horizontal wells and fine-tuning the intensity of fracking.
The industry still has more levers to pull, and it's probably only in the sixth or seventh inning when it comes to how far the technology can advance, said LeBlanc.