The latest Annual Energy Outlook from the Energy Information Administration suggests the possibility that U.S. oil production will stop growing in three to four years.
Between 2010 and 2015, annual oil production in the U.S. grew by four million barrels per day (BPD). Production dipped in 2016, but then U.S. crude oil production again rose by 1.2 million BPD between January and December 2017, to levels that haven’t been seen since the early 1970s.
The surge in production is a result of growth in tight oil (more commonly known as shale oil). Many, including myself, never imagined that oil production could grow enough to threaten the U.S. oil production peak from 1970. But that looks inevitable at this point.
This production increase raises the question: Just how much will U.S. tight oil production increase before it peaks and begins to decline? Another million BPD? Three million BPD?
The Energy Information Administration’s latest Annual Energy Outlook (with projections to 2050) attempts to answer this question, modeling several scenarios for future oil production.
The Reference case projection assumes that known technologies continue to improve along recent trend lines. The economic and demographic trends that were used reflect the current views of leading forecasters.
In the High Oil and Gas Resource and Technology case, lower costs and a higher resource availability than in the Reference case are assumed. In the Low Oil and Gas Resource and Technology case, the assumption is of lower resources and higher costs.
Here are the EIA’s projections:
U.S. oil production projections.
Every case assumes at least a few more years of tight oil supply growth. The Reference case shows shale/tight oil production growth of two to three million BPD over the next three years, before leveling off and remaining at approximately that level until 2050.
The Low Oil Resource case projects tight oil growth of another million barrels per day through about 2022, and then a steady production decline until 2050.