Move over Saudi Arabia, here comes the U.S. oil and gas market


By Rob Nikolewski │

The U.S. energy sector keeps posting impressive numbers and it’s on the verge of reaching another international milestone.

For the first time in nearly 25 years, American liquid petroleum production, which includes oil and natural gas, is on pace to surpass Saudi Arabia.

HAIL, SHALE: Due in large part to what’s called the “shale revolution,” the U.S. is poised to become the world’s top producer of liquid petroleum.

According to figures released by the International Energy Agency in Paris, the United States is just about even with the Saudis at 11.5 million barrels per day of oil and related liquids.

Saudi officials insist it still has the capacity to increase production, but as the Financial Times of London reported Monday, “even Saudi officials do not deny that the rise of the U.S. to become the world’s largest petroleum producer — with an even greater lead if its biofuel output (of about 1 million barrels a day) is included — has played a vital role in stabilising markets.”

The last time the United States produced more liquid petroleum than Saudi Arabia was in 1991.

The news comes little more than two months after a study was released predicting that as early as 2015, the United States can be the world’s largest producer of oil.

“If you had said that a decade ago, you would’ve been laughed at and called a fool,” wrote Walter Russell Mead, the editor-at-large of The American Interest, a magazine specializing in foreign affairs and geopolitics. “What a difference fracking makes.”

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques in places such as the Permian Basin in West Texas and eastern New Mexico have spurred what’s called a “shale revolution” to get to oil and natural gas in fields that used to be considered nearly impossible to reach.

“From an overall energy standpoint, we’re in a much, much better shape than we used to be,” energy analyst Dan Steffens, president of the Energy Prospectus Group in Houston, told Monday. “We used to be worried about what the hell we’re going to do with natural gas because we were running out. That was in the year 2000 … But then they figured out how to get into the shale gas and now we’re just floating in the stuff.”

Steffens predicts the United States will become a net exporter of natural gas by 2017 because of domestic production and the move towards exporting liquefied natural gas to markets, particularly in Asia: