The Next Oil Revolution

The Next Oil Revolution

By Peter C Glover

Far from running out of oil, new studies confirm the world is headed for the next oil revolution with growing US production playing an nascent role. And, as with the unconventional shale gas revolution, nearly all new unconventional oil development is taking place despite pre-election White House energy polices through development on private, rather than on federal, lands. 

A new IHS CERA group study America’s New Energy Future: The Unconventional Oil and Gas Revolution and the US Economy, spells out how unconventional oil and gas production in the US is changing the US energy landscape and contributing significant economic growth, job creation and federal revenues. The report shows how the unconventional oil and gas sector will support over 1.7 million jobs at higher than average wages. That figure is anticipated to increase to 2.5 million by 2015 and 3.5 million by 2035.

According to IHS vice chairman Daniel Yergin, “The United States currently has the highest rate of growth in crude oil production capacity in the world” while being “virtually self-sufficient in gas, except for some from Canada.” All a stark contrast to the doom and gloom predictions envisioning a heavy dependence on oil and gas imports just a few years ago. Yergin points out how the growth of unconventional oil and gas capacity, “is creating a new energy reality for the United States” that has “contributed to U.S. energy security” and is proving “a significant source of new jobs and economic activity at a time when the economy is the top priority.”

The report’s findings include:

  • Over $5 trillion in capital expenditures ($2 trillion of that in the oil sector) projected between 2012 and 2035 across the upstream unconventional oils and gas sectors. A high capital-intensive investment that will require a massive supply network in construction, financial services and information technology.
  •  Unconventional energy will contribute $237 billion in value added GDP contributions in 2012 alone, rising to $475 billion annually by 2035.
  • Unconventional oil and gas activity will generate over $61 billion in federal and state tax revenues in 2012, rising to $91 billion annually in 2015 and $111 billion by 2020.

John Larson, IHS Vice president for public sector consulting, further observes that the collusion between unconventional oil and gas production and the high capital-intensive supply chain will make the US a “world leader” with “most of the dollars spent here and supporting American jobs.”

All of which bears out what former oil executive and research fellow at The Belfer Center, Leonardo Maugeri was predicting in August. After a field-by-field analysis of the bulk of the world’s major oil exploration and development projects, Maugeri’s report concluded that, “by 2020, the world’s oil production capacity could be more than 110 million barrels per day (bpd), an increase of 20 percent.” And Maugeri predicts that the four leading producers will be Iraq, the United States, Canada and Brazil. Neither is it hard to see where it will come from as new technologies have made formerly difficult to extract deposits more commercially viable. Maugeri even predicts a global “glut of oil” after 2015 that could lead to a collapse in prices. He also foresees that the coming oil boom will become a fault-line environmentalists and the oil industry.

Such are the opportunities elsewhere that even the lure of vast oil and gas resources in the Arctic may be on hold – though the US Interior Department is selling 4.5 million acres of Arctic land leases for exploration in November.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the US Energy Administration (EIA) between 89 and 90 million bpd will be consumed in 2013.  Global oil production has never exceeded 74 million bpd. In recent years, natural gas liquids and other liquids have made up the difference and will, together with already stored oil and innovations like natural gas to drive trucks and buses, continue to do so in the short term. However, the contribution from Canada’s oil sands, US shale oil, Brazil’s presalt oil among other resources is set to have an increasingly dramatic impact ushering in a new age of plentiful oil.

As one commentator on the coming oil boom put it, “It’s yet another reminder that what the expert consensus assure us to be true very often isn’t” adding “It was equally apparent we were running out of oil – until we weren’t.”

Equally, aiding the discovery of an abundance of relatively cheap hydrocarbons is something President Obama could claim as a vote-winning personal achievement – except it isn’t.

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