By Moming Zhou
U.S. domestic crude-oil production exceeded imports last week for the first time in 16 years, a government report showed today.
Output was 32,000 barrels a day higher than imports in the seven days ended May 31, according to weekly data from the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. Production had been lower than international purchases since January 1997.
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A combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked supplies trapped in shale formations in states including North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. The surge in oil and gas production helped the U.S. meet 88 percent of its own energy needs in February, the highest monthly rate since April 1986, EIA data show. Crude inventories climbed to the highest level in 82 years in the week ended May 24.
“The U.S. market is much more comfortably supplied than a few years ago,” said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures Perspective in New York. “We have a reduced need for imports.”
The U.S. pumped 7.3 million barrels a day of oil last week, up 8,000 barrels from the prior week, the EIA said in its Weekly Petroleum Status Report. Imports fell 549,000 barrels a day last week to 7.27 million.
Stockpiles slid 1.6 percent to 391.3 million barrels last week as imports dropped and refineries used more crude to produce fuels. Supplies reached 397.6 million barrels in the week ended May 24, the highest level since 1931.
Production climbed 42 percent over the past five years and reached a 21-year high of 7.37 million barrels a day in the week ended May 3. Imports have tumbled 26 percent since May 2008.
“This is an extension of trends that have been well established over the last few years,” Evans said.
Crude futures for July delivery gained 43 cents, or 0.5 percent, to settle at $93.74 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have slumped 35 percent since settling at an all-time high of $145.29 on July 3, 2008.