HOUSTON – After the energy bust, the future of U.S. shale oil will depend greatly on how quickly drilling technology can evolve over the next 25 years, the Energy Information Administration says.
Rapid technological change and high energy prices could help domestic drillers push shale oil production to 12.9 million barrels a day by 2040, up from last year’s 4.9 million barrels a day, the EIA said Monday in an early look at some of its long-term projections due in a report later this month.
But if crude prices languish and breakthroughs in drilling come slowly, the shale plays at the center of the recent oil boom could produce just 3.1 million barrels a day, the EIA says. In this projection, technological advancements come in at half the speed as the first scenario.
The EIA says its forecasts for shale oil production vary the most across all of its long-term projections. Shale oil is a relatively new resource that has the potential for fast growth when oil prices are high or a sharp decline when prices fall.
In its middle-of-the-road forecast, the EIA says the downturn in energy prices will probably push U.S. shale oil production down to 4.2 million barrels a day next year, before a higher prices help push production to 7.1 million barrels a day by 2040.
“The increase in tight oil production is largely attributed to higher oil prices and the ongoing exploration and development programs that expand operator knowledge about producing reservoirs,” the EIA said.
Overall, the EIA expects the nation’s output of crude oil, condensate, natural gas liquids and biofuels to rise to 18.6 million barrels a day in 2040, up from last year’s 14.8 million barrels a day.