Short‐Term Energy Outlook Supplement: Key drivers for EIA’s short‐term U.S. crude oil production outlook (pdf)
Crude oil production increased by 790,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) between 2011 and 2012, the largest
increase in annual output since the beginning of U.S. commercial crude oil production in 1859. The U.S.
Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects U.S. crude oil production to continue rising over the
next two years.
U.S. crude oil output is forecast to rise 815,000 bbl/d this year to 7.25 million barrels per day, according to the February 2013 STEO. U.S. daily oil production is expected to rise by another 570,000 bbl/d in 2014 to 7.82 million barrels per day, the highest annual average level since 1988. Most of the U.S. production growth over the next two years will come from drilling in tight rock formations located in North Dakota and Texas.
Increasing tight oil production is driven by the use of horizontal drilling in conjunction with multi‐stage hydraulic fracturing, which provides both high initial production rates and high revenues at current oil prices. Additional technological and management improvements have increased the profitability of tight oil production, thereby expanding the economically recoverable tight oil resource base and accelerating the drive to produce tight oil. These technology and management improvements include, but are not confined to:
- Multi‐well drilling pads
- Extended reach horizontal laterals up to 2 miles in length
- Optimization of hydraulic fracturing through micro‐seismic imaging and enhanced interpretation
- Simultaneous hydraulic fracturing of multiple wells on a pad
- Drilling bits designed for specific shale and tight formations
- “Walking” drilling rigs
Further improvements in technology, such as selective fracturing along the horizontal lateral (the
horizontal section of a well) to avoid zero or low production stages, based on local geologic
characteristics, might further improve the economics of tight oil production.
Currently, the most important basins for production growth are:
- The Williston Basin in North Dakota and Montana, which includes the Bakken Formation
- The Western Gulf Basin in south Texas, which includes the Eagle Ford Formation
- The Permian Basin in West Texas and southeast New Mexico, which includes the Spraberry and Wolfcamp formations
At present, drilling activity is focused mostly on “tight,” or very low permeability, geologic formations, including shales, chalks, and mudstones. These formations are particularly attractive because the drilling and fracturing of long horizontal well laterals yields high initial production volumes and, therefore, strong cash flows.