The US Department of Energy’s most recent forecast predicts that US shale oil producers will kick off 2018 with strong output growth.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the seven main shale regions will see production gains of 94,000 bpd (barrels per day) in January, with 68,000 bpd of this increase coming from the prolific Permian Basin.
This increase, should the EIA’s forecast be accurate, will mean these regions will be producing in excess of 6.4 million bpd next month, more than a million bpd more than the same month in 2017.
Extracting oil and gas in these regions requires a process called hydraulic fracturing, where sand, chemicals, and water are injected underground to free carbon resources. Despite being more complicated than traditional onshore oil extraction, fracking technology and knowhow has evolved to a point where operators can quickly start up production, often at competitive breakeven prices. This has led to resurgence in US oil production, and even many oil majors like ExxonMobil, the producer of lubricants for Mobil distributors, have shifted their focus from long-term projects to quick-returning shale plays.
Some analysts point out that when extrapolating from the EIA’s December report, which stated US production at 9.78 million bpd, the US may close the year with production at 9.9 million bpd. Adding the most recent shale increases to that, US oil production could possibly exceed 10 million bpd in January, which would likely be more than that of Saudi Arabia.