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With U.S. shale oil boom over, can world production climb?

With U.S. shale oil boom over, can world production climb?

Prior to the pandemic-induced downturn in world oil production, U.S. oil production growth was responsible for 98 percent of the increase in world production in 2018 (as reported in 2019). Almost all of that growth resulted from rapid increases in shale oil production which accounted for 64 percent of U.S. production (as of 2021).

Fast forward to today when OilPrice.com has declared that “The U.S. Shale Boom Is Officially Over.” The reasons cited mostly have to do with management “discipline” regarding capital expenditure in favor of shareholder payouts and complaints about “anti-oil rhetoric” and “regulatory uncertainty.”

But there might just be another reason for the slowdown in shale oil production in the United States: There isn’t as much accessible and economical shale oil underground as advertised. Earth scientist David Hughes laid out his case for this view in his “Shale Reality Check 2021.” (For a summary of Hughes’ report, see my piece from December 2021 entitled, “U.S. shale oil and gas forecast: Too good to be true?”)

There may be other sources of oil worldwide that will somehow make up for the significantly lower growth in U.S. shale oil production. But no other source seems set to provide the kind of growth U.S. shale oil provided, that is, 73.2 percent of the global increase in oil production from 2008 through 2018.

The world has actually been getting along with less oil for some time now. World oil production proper (crude oil including lease condensate) peaked on a monthly basis in November 2018 at 84.58 million barrels per day (mbpd). In August 2022 production was 81.44 mbpd. That’s after a pandemic-induced shock that saw production fall to 70.28 mbpd in June 2020.

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