Compiled By Deborah Austin If falling crude-oil prices dip below $15 per barrel, nearly two-thirds of U.S. exploration-and-production companies (E&Ps) could lose money, suggests a recent study "Low Oil and Gas Prices Threaten Survival of Small and Mid-Size US E&P Companies" by energy research/consulting firm John S. Herold Inc., Norwalk, Conn. Herold's "Survivor Stress Test" analyzed 77 North American E&Ps, using "Net Debt-to-Annualized 3Q2001 Cash Flow Ratio" as a measure of balance-sheet strength -- identifying those with ratios of 2.5 or greater as "feeling pain." The test found that 44% of U.S. E&Ps are "feeling pain." This includes nearly 60% of "small" E&Ps (less than 50 barrels of oil equivalent -- boe -- in proved reserves); 50% of "midsize" (50 boe or more); and 25% of "large" (top 25 E&Ps). Of more-conservative Canadian E&Ps, 27% are "feeling pain." The last severe price drop -- late-1998 through 1999 -- spawned bankruptcies and consolidations. Of 157 E&Ps Herold covered in 1990, only 63 remained in 2000. To obtain a free report e-mail Tom Biracree at [email protected].