Jan 26, 2019 - Energy & Environment

The U.S. as a net energy exporter will become the new normal

The Energy Information Administration unveiled its annual long-term forecasts Thursday and here's a hot take: The U.S. is going to keep pumping lots of oil and shale will remain the dominant force.

Reproduced from EIA; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from EIA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Just how much production will depend on price, resource and technology variables, some of them reflected in the chart above (where "tight" oil is a proxy for shale). In the EIA's central or "Reference" scenario, "U.S. crude oil production continues to grow through 2030 and then plateaus at more than 14.0 million barrels per day (b/d) until 2040."

The intrigue: Bloomberg reporters noticed something interesting from what we could label in the "life moves pretty fast" file:

  • "A year ago, the U.S. government saw American crude production averaging 11.95 million barrels a day in 2042. Shale drillers are set to exceed that this year," they note.
  • "The Energy Information Administration now estimates output will top out at 14.53 million barrels a day in 2031."

Why it matters: The crude surge is a reason behind one of the key findings — that the U.S. as a net energy exporter will be the new normal.

  • The report's Reference case projects that the U.S. becomes a net energy exporter in 2020 and stays that way through the end of its projection period in 2050.
  • It's the result of "large increases in crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas plant liquids (NGPL) production coupled with slow growth in U.S. energy consumption," according to the EIA report.
  • Of note: the EIA already said in a separate report recently that the U.S. would be a net exporter of crude and petroleum products combined in Q4 of 2020, but the new report signals its view that this will be a long-lasting dynamic.

What's next: I plan to explore one of the other findings — the EIA's pessimistic projection of electric vehicle adoption — some time next week.

Go deeper: US to become a net energy exporter in 2020 for first time in nearly 70 years, Energy Dept says (CNBC)

Go deeper