By Grant Smith
The U.S. will surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2015, and be close to energy self-sufficiency in the next two decades, amid booming output from shale formations, the IEA said.
Crude prices will advance to $128 a barrel by 2035 with a 16 percent increase in consumption supporting the development of so-called tight oil in the U.S. and a tripling in output from Brazil, the International Energy Agency said today in its annual World Energy Outlook. The role of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will recover in the middle of the next decade as other nations struggle to repeat North America’s success with exploiting shale deposits, the agency predicted.
“As production goes up and imports go down, it does have positive macroeconomic effects for the U.S.,” said Mike Wittner, head of oil research at Societe Generale SA in New York. “It’s good for the balance of payments, good for the dollar, good for jobs, for other heavy industries. But it doesn’t equate to being insulated from world oil markets.”
Soaring shale output in the U.S. is helping the world’s largest oil consumer achieve its highest level of energy independence in two decades, cushioning it against disruptions in Africa and the Middle East. The boom threatens revenues for OPEC’s 12 members, whose production is at its lowest in two years amid political unrest in Libya and theft in Nigeria.
U.S. oil production will rise to 11.6 million barrels a day in 2020, from 9.2 million in 2012, as it taps rock and shale layers in North Dakota and Texas with the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, according to the IEA, a Paris-based adviser to 28 energy-consuming nations. The report didn’t specify an output level for 2015.
Over the same time period, Saudi Arabian production will fall to 10.6 million from 11.7 million and Russia slips to 10.4 million from 10.7 million barrels. The figures include natural gas liquids, condensates and crude.
U.S. output will plateau after 2020 and the nation will lose its top ranking at the start of the 2030s, the IEA said.
“We do not expect this trend will continue after 2020s,” Fatih Birol, the agency’s chief economist, said in London today. “It will come to a plateau and decline as a result of the limited resource base of light tight oil.”
U.S. crude production rose to 7.896 million barrels a day in the week ended Oct. 18, the most since March 1989, according to the Energy Information Administration. West Texas Intermediate futures dropped as much as 83 cents to $94.31 a barrel in trading today on the New York Mercantile Exchange and were $94.58 as of 4:11 p.m. in London.
Global oil demand will expand by 14 million barrels to average 101 million a day in 2035, according to the IEA report. The share of conventional crude will drop to 65 million barrels by the end of the period because of growth in unconventional supplies, the IEA said without providing current data.
The concentration in global oil trade will continue to shift to the Asia-Pacific region from the Atlantic Basin, as China is on the verge of becoming the world’s biggest oil importer, the report showed. India will displace China as the biggest driver of energy demand growth after 2020, the IEA said.
Expanding refinery capacity in Asia and the Middle East along with reduced demand in many developed nations is intensifying the pressure for plants to close, the agency said.
The IEA estimates that almost 10 million barrels a day of oil processing capacity is “at risk” by 2035, with refineries in Europe in particular the most vulnerable, it said. This equates to about 10 percent of current global capacity, based on data compiled by Bloomberg on more than 700 sites worldwide.
Brazil will triple output to 6 million barrels a day by 2035 as it exploits deep-water reserves, an expansion that will account for one-third of the increase in global production and make the nation the world’s sixth-largest oil producer, according to the agency.
While North American shale, coupled with rising production in Brazil and global supplies of natural gas liquids, will dominate output growth over the next 10 years, OPEC, and its Middle Eastern members in particular, will regain importance after that as supplies from outside the organization falter, according to the report. OPEC pumps about 40 percent of global oil supplies.
“The U.S. moves steadily towards meeting all of its energy needs from domestic resources by 2035,” the IEA said. “But this does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance. Light, tight oil shakes the next 10 years, but leaves the longer term unstirred. The Middle East, the only large source of low-cost oil, remains at the center of the longer-term outlook.”
OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. It will next meet to review production targets on Dec. 4 in Vienna.
More than half of the 790 billion barrels the world will need to produce by 2035 is needed to compensate for declining output from mature deposits, the agency said. Output declines at a rate of 6 percent a year at conventional oil fields once they reach peak production, according to the report.