Some of the surge in U.S. oil production this past spring might have been “a mirage.”
On July 31, the EIA released monthly data on U.S. oil production, which revealed a decline in U.S. output of 30,000 bpd in May, compared to a month earlier. The dip is a surprise, given the widespread assumption that U.S. shale production was continuing to grow at a blistering pace.
To be sure, a big reason for the decline in overall output was the 75,000-bpd decline in production from offshore Gulf of Mexico. But Texas production only rose by 20,000 bpd, a disappointing figure that likely came in far below what most analysts had expected.
Moreover, the monthly total of 10.442 million barrels per day (mb/d) for May is sharply lower than what EIA itself thought at the time. Here are the weekly estimates for U.S. oil production that the EIA put out back then:
April 6: 10.525 mb/d
April 13: 10.540 mb/d
April 20: 10.586 mb/d
April 27: 10.619 mb/d
May 4: 10.703 mb/d
May 11: 10.723 mb/d
May 18: 10.725 mb/d
May 25: 10.769 mb/d
The weekly estimates tend to be less accurate than the retrospective monthly numbers. That is not a new dynamic, and estimating on a weekly basis inherently involves a lot of guesswork, so this is not a knock on the EIA.
Yet the discrepancy is rather striking. Not only did the EIA estimate that production in April and May was much higher than it actually was, but the agency also thought production was rising quickly.
If the weekly estimates were to be believed at the time, production would have climbed from 10.525 mb/d in early April to 10.769 mb/d by the end of May, an increase of 244,000 bpd over a roughly eight-week period.
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