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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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U.S. To Increase Oil Production and Begin Mining Rare Earth Minerals

In what some in watching economics might consider a private sector resurgence in an economic recovery, the U.S. is increasing oil production and next week will restart mining rare earth minerals after a long absence.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is reporting U.S. daily crude oil production was 5.891 million barrels of oil per day for the week of October 14, 2011.  A look at the EIAs chart of weekly U.S. crude production back to January of 1983 shows a slow production fall over two decades.  But since January of 2009 the climb back has been steady rising from under 5 million barrels per day to now closing in on 6 million.

U.S. Crude oil production
Weekly US Field Crude Oil Production

Its looking like a new oil boom based in technology.  The production increased from directed and horizontal drilling activity, particularly in the unconventional shale formations.  This is paralleling the natural gas increases also from directed and horizontal drilling.  The fracturing of reservoir rocks is also a major technology.

The two new techniques are rapidly being adopted across North America and will filter out across the world over the coming years.

The U.S. also has 4.1 million barrels per day of non-crude oil supplies, 2.2 million barrels per day of natural gas liquids, 0.9 million barrels per day of renewable fuels, 0.9 million barrels per day of ethanol plus the 1.1 million barrels per day of refinery process gain.

The result is oil imports are down to 6,557,000 barrels of oil per day for the week of October 14, 2011. This was the lowest level of imports since 1995 – going back 16 years.

Its looking like peak oil is a fuss about nothing while peak demand is a very real thing.  But don’t count on that demand peak . . .

Forecasts suggest U.S. crude oil production could increase by 500,000 to 1 million barrels per day each year through 2015 driven by Bakken oil in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas and the Utica Shale.

7 million barrels per day production would be a crude oil rate of the United States that was last seen in 1993. If the U.S. gets to 9 million barrels per day, it would be a new record high crude oil production. Those would be rates comparable to Saudi and Russian, the two largest oil producers.

This week saw Molycorp, Inc., the Western hemisphere’s only producer of rare earth oxides and the leading producer of rare earth oxides outside of China, announce plans to accelerate by approximately three months the initial start-up of its new state-of-the-art rare earth processing facility under construction.

In anticipation of the facility’s accelerated start-up, Mark A. Smith, Molycorp’s President and CEO said Molycorp will commence mining and stockpiling of fresh rare earth ore next week.  Accelerating the facility’s initial start-up will increase the company’s estimated 2012 production by approximately 3,500 metric tons, to 8,000–10,000 metric tons, and will enable Molycorp to achieve its full Phase 1 production rate of 19,050 metric tons per year of rare earth oxide equivalent three months earlier than previously planned.

The timing couldn’t be better as China’s Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth (Group) Hi-Tech, which accounts for nearly half of the world’s light rare-earth production, said Tuesday it would suspend smelting and separation work for a month to use its market power to rally falling rare earth prices.

Worldwide Rare Earth Supply and Demand
Worldwide Rare Earth Supply and Demand.

Not long ago China was restricting rare earth exports under what now looks like a guise, due to internal needs.  The Chinese economy has grown at better than a 9% rate since.

Having the U.S. firm back in the market and others sure to follow has important implications for the pricing forecasts of goods using rare earth elements and improves the competitiveness of companies worldwide.  Those new technologies just got a lot more viable from improved costs.


As noted earlier, these basic parts of raw material resources bode well for the private sector and an economic recovery.  Perhaps the U.S. government could get out of the way, stop generating an ever larger regulation burden and maybe, just maybe personal incomes might climb enough to put some energy and confidence back in the housing market.

Hard times, economic slowdowns and recessions are opportunities at the core of an economy.  They also wipe away the fat, fluff and fake – setting the fundamentals back on solid footing.  Painful as these times are, good things are setting up the future.  We’re beginning to see them, and very glad and relieved they’re finally here.

By. Brian Westenhaus

Source: The U.S. Gets Back In the Resources Business

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  • Anonymous on October 24 2011 said:
    More oil production = more carbon dioxide. More carbon dioxide = at least possibly, more environmental problems. I would still prefer we advance along a broad front towards a less carbon dioxide-intensive economy. It means more fuel economical cars, but also more car-pooling. It means adapting our life-styles towards less driving to and from our jobs. It means more use of (Heaven to Betsy!) more use of nuclear power. But with human nature being what it is, nobody is going to give up the convenience of their personal car solely out of eco-altruism. Providing more fuel (which means, cheaper motor fuels) will disincentivize all the measures I mentioned above. So I'm not about to go out and celebrate increasing oil production.
  • Anonymous on October 24 2011 said:
    Environment has long disappeared of the radar from our civilization. The only goal right now is to increase oil and gas supply to continue our way of life and bring power and money to producing nations. Our children will have serious questions for us later on when their world will be crumbling ... well hopefully we'll be all dead then.
  • Anonymous on October 24 2011 said:
    Hmm....Global Warming is an unproven theory. Every prediction has not come true, and more and more scientists that supported the theory have come out as frauds....yet there are still a large group of people that follow it. Come on, get a life. The climate has been getting warmer and colder throughout history. Greenland was called that because in the 1500's the climate was warm enough to have cows graze the grass there. What if that was the normal and we are coming out of a cold spell now? Imported oil is a big problem, but green ideas won't solve it. Canada is in a drill baby drill mode, Mexico, Brazil and even Cuba are drilling more in the gulf. Are we the only fools left? Billions of barrels of oil and gas await for us to find in our borders. Go get it
  • jr on April 25 2012 said:
    If we do increase oil mining in the US we can save money and if we do have environmental problems we can relocate the species and put them themn in a safer environment so we arent hurting our selfs. we also help out our peopel by giving them jobs. since the US has such a high debt by making our own oil we are able to stop all our debts and pay off all the debts.

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