Fracking boom pushes US oil output to 25-year high

U.S. crude production rose to the highest level in a quarter-century as a shale drilling boom in states such as Texas and North Dakota cut the need for foreign oil and pushed the country closer to energy independence.

The U.S. pumped 8.075 million barrels a day in the week ended Dec. 6, a gain of 0.8 percent, or 64,000 barrels a day, the Energy Information Administration said today. It’s the most since October 1988.

“You can’t swing a cat without hitting a barrel of oil in North America,” said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group Inc., an energy consulting firm in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “It’s amazing how quickly things can change.”

U.S. oil production grew 18 percent in the past 12 months, the fastest pace on record, boosting fuel exports and reducing reliance on imports, according to the EIA. The boom will make the country the world’s largest producer by 2015, five years sooner than last year’s forecast, the International Energy Agency in Paris said last month.

Imported crude and petroleum products will dip to 28 percent of domestic demand next year, the lowest since 1985 and down from a peak of 60 percent in 2005, the EIA said in its Dec. 10 Short-Term Energy Outlook. Refined product exports have advanced 16 percent so far this year, EIA data show.

Advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have boosted output from dense rock formations such as the Bakken shale in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas. The techniques allow producers to bore sideways through the richest layers, and then use explosives followed by a high- pressure stream of water, sand and chemicals to crack open the deposit and free the trapped oil and gas.

Rising Output

Production in Texas has increased 21 percent from the end of 2012 through September, EIA data show. North Dakota likewise rose 21 percent, Wyoming is up 14 percent and Oklahoma added 19 percent, Colorado gained 11 percent and New Mexico advanced 12 percent, EIA records show.

Domestic oil production will average 8.5 million barrels a day next year, according to the EIA, the statistical arm of the Energy Department.

The surge in supplies has led domestic producers such as Harold Hamm, the chairman and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc., to push the U.S. to lift restrictions on U.S. oil exports, which were imposed by Congress following the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Crude sent to Canada, which is allowed under license, rose to 99,000 barrels a day in September, EIA data show.

Taking into account all energy sources, including natural gas, petroleum, nuclear and renewables, the U.S. met 86 percent of its needs in the first eight months of 2013, on pace to be the highest annual rate since 1986, EIA data show.


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