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EIA: U.S. shale output to keep rising until peak after 2030

By Renzo Pipoli
EIA: U.S. shale output to keep rising until peak after 2030
Shale oil extraction will continue to lead crude oil production in the United States in the next three decades. Photo by Armbrusterbiz/Pixabay

March 29 (UPI) -- Production of the so-called shale, or tight oil, will continue to increase through 2030 and reach more than 10 million barrels per day in the early 2030s, the Energy Information Administration said.

"EIA projects further U.S. tight oil production growth as the industry continues to improve drilling efficiencies and reduce costs, which makes developing tight oil resources less sensitive to oil prices than in the past," according to the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2019.

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Tight oil, or shale oil, production refers to extraction of crude oil contained in low-permeability formations that, thanks to technological advances, started to be tapped resulting in soaring production in the United States and becoming in 2015 the more common form of oil production.

Shale oil production reached 6.5 million barrels per day in the United States in 2018, accounting for 61% of total U.S. production.

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Most of the increase in recent years in crude oil production in the United States is related to the development of the Permian Basin in western Texas and eastern New Mexico.

"Three major tight oil plays in the Permian Basin -- the Spraberry, Bone Spring, and Wolfcamp -- accounted for 41 percent of U.S. tight oil production in 2018," and they will remain very important in coming decades potentially representing half of the cumulative tight oil production in the next 30 years, the EIA said.

Bakken and Eagle Ford also remain major contributors to U.S. tight oil, and accounted for 19 percent and 17 percent of crude oil production in 2018. Eagle Ford is in Texas, while the Bakken occupies parts of Montana, North Dakota and Canada.

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"Future growth of domestic tight oil production depends on a variety of factors, including the quality of resources, technology and operational improvements that increase productivity and reduce costs, and market prices," the EIA said.

The EIA worked on two alternative cases in which technology and resource assumptions are modified. In one optimistic technology, lower-cost scenario, total U.S. oil production in 2050 is nearly 19 million barrels per day.

In the less optimistic scenario total U.S. oil production in 2050 falls to about 8 million barrels per day, it said.

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The EIA also contemplated the impact that international oil prices could have, and evaluated scenarios contemplating a high as well as a low oil price.

In the high oil price scenario, in which oil hits $100 per barrel in 2019 and rises to $208 (in 2018 dollars), that would lead to a peak of 18 million barrels per day by 2024 before declining to 13 million barrels per day in 2050.

EIA reports that conventional oil production in the United States during the period covered appears relatively steady at 4 million barrels per day for nearly all of the period.

In the low oil price case scenario, which contemplates an average price under $50 per barrel through 2050, total domestic production would increase to nearly 13 million barrels per day in 2022, before declining through the rest of the period.

According to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, hydraulic fracturing has been utilized for more than 60 years and has been "safely and effectively applied" to well over a million oil and gas wells in the United States alone.

Hydraulic fracking, which injects water mixed with chemicals to penetrate shale formations, is controversial. There are more than 700 studies that have focused on potential risks, with a high number of them showing risks or actual harms, Forbes reported.

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New York, Vermont and Maryland, which has proven gas reserves, have laws banning fracking.

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