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Peak U.S. Shale Could Be 4 Years Away

Peak U.S. Shale Could Be 4 Years Away

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U.S. shale production growth has outperformed even the most bullish forecasts, forcing OPEC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) to revise up American supply growth projections month after month.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) also expects shale/tight oil to continue to grow in all possible modeled scenarios for the next four years, according to its Annual Energy Outlook 2018 published this month.

While the EIA is not predicting what will happen, it is modeling possible production scenarios under certain assumptions. Under one of those modeled projections—the Low Oil and Gas Resource and Technology case—the assumptions applied are lower resources and higher costs. In this model, U.S. tight oil production—including the plays Bakken/Three Forks/Sanish, Eagle Ford, Woodford, Austin Chalk, Spraberry, Niobrara, Avalon/Bone Springs, and Monterey—is expected to rise from 4.96 million bpd in 2017 to 5.59 million bpd in 2022, and then to start declining on a steady downward trend by 2050, when tight oil production is expected to be at 4.42 million bpd.

This is one of the side cases in EIA’s models, and one of the most unlikely, because it assumes no technological breakthroughs, lower resources, and higher costs. Under this model, total U.S. crude oil production is pegged at 9.14 million bpd this year, while figures are currently available, showing that production is already above 10 million bpd and likely to average more than 10.5 million bpd this year.

The Reference case scenario shows tight oil production jumping to more than 7 million bpd by 2025 and surpassing 8 million bpd in 2036, before starting to level off some time in the early 2040s. Total U.S. crude oil production in the Reference case is between 11 million bpd and 12 million bpd by 2050, “as tight oil development moves into less productive areas and as well productivity declines,” the EIA says.

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