DALLAS — Lower oil prices will bring new fiscal pressures to the top energy producing states, with Alaska bearing the greatest exposure, according to Moody's Investors Service.
As of Friday, oil prices have been below $83 per barrel for almost two weeks, Moody's analyst John Lombardi wrote in an Oct. 27 report.
"A significant drop in oil prices from Friday's $81.01 per barrel of West Texas Intermediate would be credit negative for some of the top oil-producing US states, especially Alaska (general obligation Aaa stable), which depends on oil tax revenues to fund virtually all of its operating budget," Lombardi wrote.
Of the five states with budgets reliant on oil and gas revenues, Texas is by far the largest producer, with 3.1 million barrels per day of production in July. However, the state's reliance on those revenues is only 8% compared to Alaska's 89%, according to Moody's analysis.
The Texas budget also has a more conservative projection of the price of benchmark crude at $82.18 per barrel, virtually on target as of the past two weeks. For 2015, the Texas budget assumes oil prices at $80.33 per barrel.
Alaska, on the other hand, produces 422,000 barrels per day with prices forecast in its budget this year at $106.61 and $105.06 in 2015.
The budget of North Dakota, the second-largest producer behind Texas at 1.1 million barrels per day, brings in 6% of its revenue from oil and gas revenue, and uses an even more conservative price projection than Texas. North Dakota based its revenue projections on oil at $75 per barrel this year and $80 in 2015.
Oklahoma's budget is 4% reliant on oil and gas tax revenue, while New Mexico has a 19% exposure, Moody's said.
"Alaska and New Mexico both forecasted higher oil prices for their fiscal years ended June 30, 2014 and may need to make budgetary adjustments," Lombardi said.
Lower oil prices over an extended period could derail efforts to explore and drill new wells in Alaska, which enacted tax incentives that took effect in January 2014 to spur output, the report said.
The low prices also risk decreasing the allure of tight oil deposits, which require more costly extraction, in states such as North Dakota and Oklahoma. Some unconventional drilling operations require oil prices of $80 per barrel to break even.
If the energy market does continue to weaken, energy-dependent states appear well positioned for a soft landing, analysts said.
"Many oil-producing states built large fiscal reserves in recent years as elevated oil prices (and growing production in some states) stoked tax collections," Lombardi said. "Their reserves mitigate a near-term oil revenue decline."
Though Alaska is the most reliant on oil tax revenues, its reserves of $26 billion exceed three years' of fiscal 2013 operating revenues, Lombardi said.
Other states with large reserves include North Dakota, with $2.5 billion, or 78% of revenues, and Texas, with $8 billion, or 16% of revenues. New Mexico's reserve levels are slightly lower at $671 million, or 12% of revenues.
Although the Moody's report highlighted five states, many others have become significant energy producers through the technology of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" of shale formations using horizontal wells.
Colorado produced nearly 63.2 million barrels of crude oil in 2013, a new state record and a 28% increase from 2012, when the state's oil and gas wells produced nearly 49.3 million barrels of oil, according to industry records.
Oil prices have dropped sharply since June's peak of $104 per barrel as supply growth has outpaced demand. Participants in the global market are waiting to see whether the OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, will reduce production to raise prices at its Nov. 27 meeting.
The United States exported 401,000 barrels per day of crude oil in July 2014, the highest level of exports in 57 years and the second highest monthly export volume since 1920, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Alaska has begun shipping North Slope crude to South Korea, the first export of that oil in more than 10 years. A shipment of oil from Texas to South Korea in July was the first unrestricted sale of unrefined oil since 2007.
Texas is also building facilities to export liquefied natural gas to other nations in hopes of expanding the market for natural gas. While oil is a global market, natural gas tends to be more regional in scope, dependent largely on pipelines for transmission.
Amid record production this year, the November price for natural gas fell from $3.80 per million British Thermal Units last Wednesday to $3.659 per million BTUs Friday.