Shale boom to make U.S. world's largest oil producer, says IEA

Posted: Nov 14, 2012

Written by

Benoît Faucon, Wall Street Journal/GW
Shale gas

The shale revolution unfolding on patches across the United States, from Texas to North Dakota, could make it the world's largest oil producer in less than a decade, according to an International Energy Agency report released today.

"By around 2020, the United States is projected to become the largest global oil producer," overtaking Saudi Arabia, the agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook.

"The result is a continued fall in U.S. oil imports ... to the extent that North America becomes a net oil exporter around 2030."

Since the last IEA report, U.S. oil production has increased by 7 percent, up to 10.76 million barrels a day. This surge is driven by spreading use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, technologies that are opening up production in tight rock formations across the country.

By 2035, the United States could import less than 2 million barrels of oil a day, a drop of nearly 75 percent compared with current rates. This domestic surge could carry a cascade of implications for international policy, including increased pressure for Asian countries to protect the world's shipping lanes, the agency said.

Projections, of course, remain a fraught process. Just last year, the IEA estimated that Russia and Saudi Arabia would tussle for the top oil-producer crown.

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