Until the capital markets open up and allow U.S. oil companies to spend outside of their cash flow, production will not increase and crude prices will continue to rise, Tapstone Energy CEO Tom Ward said Thursday.
"There's no increase in the capital spending, the debt side of the business is closed, and so until we have something fairly dramatic happen like maybe a doubling of the rig count, I don't think we can grow production in the U.S.," he said in an interview with CNBC's " Power Lunch ."
Therefore, "I wouldn't be surprised at all if we saw above $60 or even $70 [a barrel] by the end of the year," added Ward, the co-founder of Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK).
His comments come on the heels of American oil billionaire Harold Hamm's prediction that oil will likely hit $69 to $72 per barrel by year's end.
U.S. crude futures (New York Mercantile Exchange: @CL.1) fell Thursday, settling 67 cents lower, or 1.3 percent, at $50.56 a barrel, after hitting a new 2016 high at $51.67. The climb back up from the mid-$20 range lows has some worrying U.S. oil producers will put more rigs to work, which could send the price of oil down again.
Tapstone Energy currently has three rigs online, down from four, and Ward said there are no plans to add more rigs. It's the same across the industry, he said, because of the lack of access to capital markets .
"I think prices will have to move up even higher than we're talking about for there to be a big change in the rig count," said Ward. "We can't change the decline of the oil production in the United States without more capital, and right now that's just not available."
That said, as soon as funds open up, Ward plans to start spending.
"We will spend whatever you give us. As long as there is money to be had through the capital markets, then we'll use that to grow production, because that's what we're paid for."
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