US to Become ‘Net Energy Exporter’

From Al Jazeera

By Chris Arsenault

Some industry veterans believe it’s the biggest development in the energy game since 1859, when the first US oil well gushed from beneath the earth in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

In changes that would have been unthinkable just five years ago, the US is set to become a net energy exporter in the next few years, thanks to the controversial process of fracking that is re-wiring geopolitics and the world of energy.

The practice of shooting steam and chemicals into shale rock formations to unlock energy sources previously considered marginal has “changed the world”, according to one lawyer with more than 40 years of experience negotiating natural gas contracts.

“We are talking about increases [in natural gas production] of 15 to 20 percent per year,” George Washington University law professor Richard Pierce told Al Jazeera. “The US is now 100 percent independent in natural gas and within the next half a dozen years [North America] will be independent in oil. It will become a global supplier, rather than a demander, in a hurry.”

‘Once-in-a-lifetime experience’

New technologies to access hard-to-reach fuels mean that, in 2012, the United States experienced its largest rise in annual oil output since the middle of the 19th century, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) released in December. Shale gas is a fossil fuel trapped inside formations of shale rock. Some of these formations also contain oil.

The expected 760,000 barrel-per-day increase in US crude oil production in 2012 is the largest rise in annual output since the beginning of US commercial oil extraction in 1859, an EIA official said in a statement.

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