U.S. fracks its way into world's leading oil and gas producer


According to new estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2015 the country retained its newfound position as the world’s top producer of oil and gas. It's a position the U.S. has held for less than five years, having surged ahead of both Russia and Saudi Arabia thanks to fracking technology.

“U.S. petroleum and natural gas production first surpassed Russia in 2012, and the United States has been the world's top producer of natural gas since 2011 and the world's top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013,” the EIA reports.

The agency says that total production volumes are almost evenly split between petroleum and natural gas in both the U.S. and Russia, but Saudi Arabia’s production heavily favours petroleum.

“In the United States, crude oil and lease condensate accounted for roughly 60% of the total petroleum hydrocarbon production in 2015. An additional 20% of the U.S. production was natural gas plant liquids. Biofuels and refinery processing gain make up most of the remaining U.S. petroleum and other liquids production volumes,” the EIA says.

“Despite low crude oil prices and a 60% drop in the number of operating oil and natural gas rigs, U.S. petroleum supply still increased by 1.0 million barrels per day in 2015. U.S. natural gas production increased by 3.7 billion cubic feet per day, with nearly all of the increase occurring in the eastern United States.”

Increases in U.S. petroleum and natural gas production over the past several years are directly attributed to production from tight oil and shale gas formations, the EIA says.

“Several factors kept hydrocarbon production increases in Russia smaller than increases in the United States in 2015. Although Russian petroleum production continued to increase, natural gas production declined because of poor economic conditions and a mild winter, which resulted in lower domestic demand for natural gas. Russia's total combined production of petroleum and natural gas increased by just 0.1 quadrillion Btu in 2015.”

Saudi Arabia’s production also increased last year.

“In contrast to past actions to raise or lower oil production levels to balance global oil markets, Saudi Arabia did not reduce petroleum production in late 2014 or 2015, even as oil prices fell and global inventories of oil rose,” the EIA says. “As a result, Saudi Arabia's total petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbon production rose by 3% in 2015. Still, the United States produced more than twice the petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons as Saudi Arabia produced in 2015.”

The agency expects U.S. production will decline from 15 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2015 to about 14.5 million b/d in both 2016 and 2017. In contrast, it forecasts Russian liquid fuels production to remain at about 11 million barrels per day through 2017, and says there is currently no indication that Saudi Arabia is planning any reductions.