Tiny Texas driller becomes first US oil company to go bust since crude prices began crashing

HOUSTON (REUTERS) - Is this what Saudi Arabia and Opec have been waiting for?

WBH Energy, one of many tiny shale oil and gas producers in Texas, has filed for bankruptcy protection, becoming what may be the first US oil company to do so since crude prices started tumbling six months ago.

It listed assets and liabilities of US$10 million (S$13.4 million) to US$50 million in its filing in US Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas on Sunday.

The privately held company, based in Austin, has leases in the Barnett Combo Play of the Fort Worth Basin, which mainly produces gas and is not a significant field in the current US oil boom that has lifted output to the highest level in decades.

A 50 per cent slide in crude prices since June has prompted many US producers to scale back plans for new wells or in some cases halt new drilling.

Oil cartel Opec - led by Saudi Arabia - is in a price war with US producers to win back market share. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Contries has resisted calls to cut production in the face of a supply glut in hopes of forcing out small independent US drillers, who operate under slim margins and the higher costs of extracting shale oil.