Report: U.S. oil reserves flourished in 2011

The United States rebounded as a global leader in crude oil production in 2011 as companies used new technology to unlocked vast reserves across the country, according to an annual Ernst & Young report released today.

The nation added 1.7 billion barrels to its oil reserves in 2011, growing 9 percent over the previous year, the advisory firm’s study found. Production grew 3 percent to 1.4 million barrels.

The rise was a turnaround for the United States that was once viewed as a nation where energy resources were in permanent decline.

“It changed the picture of the United States a complete 180,” said Charles Swanson, Ernst & Young’s Houston office managing partner. “You can’t deny that we have a lot of energy resources in this country.”

Ernst & Young surveyed the exploration and production activities of the 50 largest oil and natural gas companies in the United States. The annual study analyzes capital expenditures, revenue, reserves and other performance measures.

The surveyed companies spent $21.7 billion on exploring for oil and natural gas in 2011, a 40 percent increase over the previous year, according to the report. They spent $61.5 billion on developing their reserves, a 37 percent jump from 2010.

Funneling billions into oil and gas fields signaled a strategic change for the industry, which grew largely through acquisitions in previous years, noted Marcela Donadio, the Americas oil and gas leader for Ernst & Young.

“The industry really focused on growing through the drill bit” in 2011, Donadio said. “In ’09 and ‘10 there was substantial amount of investments in buying resources and in ‘11 the industry was focused on developing that resource.”