US Oil Production Will Soar in 2013. Can it Last?
By David J. Unger
US crude oil production is expected to rise by 815,000 barrels per day in 2013, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). That’s the largest increase in annual output since the US started producing crude oil commercially in 1859, and it would bring this year’s total output to 7.25 million barrels per day.
That’s a lot of oil. The catch is that much of the boom is the result of so-called “tight” oil. Having tapped much of the country’s “conventional” sources, energy companies have developed new drilling techniques to open up oil and gas resources previously thought unattainable.
It’s why a rock formation in North Dakota called the Bakken Shale is suddenly ground zero for US oil production. In 2012, the Williston Basin, which includes the Bakken Shale formation, produced 720,000 barrels of oil per day. That’s expected to rise to 950,000 barrels per day in 2013 and 1.13 million in 2014.
Those kinds of numbers wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for a controversial method of drilling called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Large volumes of fluid are propelled at high pressures into rock formations to open them up for production. The water-intensive technique has raised environmental concerns over the chemicals added to the water, and questions about what to do with the resulting waste water.
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