Oil prices are poised to enter 2020 at a higher level than they did a year ago with the benchmark Brent Crude trading up nearly 24 per cent $US66.67 ($95.24) per barrel, while the West Texas Intermediate gained 35.8 per cent to $US61.66 per barrel.

However, this is still down from when the Brent and WTI hit highs of $US74.04 and $US65.55 per barrel respectively in April.

Events such as the September attacks on Saudi Arabian oil refineries also failed to do anything more than cause a brief oil price spike.

READ: Why a drone attack on Saudi oil supplies is good news for ASX producers… and some explorers

This is likely due to the shale oil revolution that is expected to make the US a net oil exporter in 2020 along with weakening global demand.

Prices in 2020 are unlikely to be any stronger either with the US Energy Information Administration forecasting that average crude oil prices are expected to be lower than in 2019 due to rising inventories coupled with growing production.

Even production cuts announced by Saudi Arabia are unlikely to support oil prices with CommSec commodities analyst Vivek Dhar saying earlier this month that trade relations and growth expectations would continue to have more impact on oil prices than supply.

READ: Here’s why OPEC’s cuts won’t affect oil prices in 2020; but here’s what will


Small Cap lookout

Despite this price uncertainty, here are some small cap oil companies that have potentially company-changing news early in the new year.

Alaska-focused 88 Energy (ASX:88E) will spud its Charlie-1 well at Project Icewine in February. The well, which is funded by Premier Oil up to a total of $US23m under a recent farm-out agreement, is designed as an appraisal of the Malguk-1 well drilled in 1991 by BP that encountered oil shows but was not tested.

Empire Energy Group (ASX:EEG) is gearing up to drill its shale oil prospects in the Nothern Territory. It recently kicked off a seismic survey to optimise the selection of drilling locations.

Meanwhile, Bass Oil (ASX:BAS) will carry out workover operations at its Tangai-Sukananti project in Indonesia. This is aimed at bringing the Bunian-4 well back into production as well as increasing field recovery by converting a well into a water injector.

Over in the Canning Basin, Buru Energy (ASX:BRU) expects to increase oil production from its Ungani field once a coiled tubing unit is available to complete and bring its Ungani 6ST1 well into production.