The US Energy Information Administration has projected in its 2019 Annual Energy Outlook that tight oil, which is also often referred to as shale oil, production will continue to grow and drive increasing US oil production long into the future.
Tight oil has already been the dominant form of oil production since 2015, and last year, it reached 6.5 million barrels per day (bpd) on average, accounting for 61% of all US oil production. The EIA, however, anticipates that players like ExxonMobil, the US oil major behind lubricating and circulating oils like Mobil DTE Heavy Medium, will continue to cut costs and improve drilling efficiency. This will make the tight oil sector less sensitive to low oil prices, something that devastated the sector following the oil price crash of 2015 and drive future growth through 2030.
By this point, the EIA sees tight oil production exceeding 10 million bpd. Through 2050, about half of cumulative tight oil production is expected to come from three plays in the Permian Basin, namely Bone Spring, Spraberry, and Wolfcamp. Other prominent plays include the Eagle Ford and Bakken formations, which will contribute 17% and 19%, respectively, of total cumulative tight oil.
The IEA’s projection of 12 million bpd total US oil production for 2050 is predicated on certain assumptions about operational improvements, resource availability, technological advances, and oil prices for its reference case. In its more optimistic and pessimistic sensitivity cases, oil production either increases 19 million bpd or gradually declines after the early 2020s to 8 million bpd.