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Ron Patterson

Ron Patterson

Ron Patterson is a retired computer engineer. He worked in Saudi Arabia for five years, two years at the Ghazlan Power Plant near Ras Tanura…

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U.S. Shale - The New Swing Producer


The BP Statistical Review of World Energy has oil production data by country up to the end of 2015. This is what that looks like from 1988:

(Click to enlarge)

The United States increased production by 5.1 million barrels per day from 2010 to 2015. The increase in production from countries around the Persian Gulf over the same period was slightly less at 5.0 million barrels per day. The increase in total world production was 8.4 million barrels per day so the rest of the world declined by some 1.7 million barrels per day. This was despite Canadian production rising 1.0 million barrels per day from oil sands developments plus some other increases from Russia, Brazil, Colombia etc. Most oil producing countries are in well-established long term declines or plateaus, at best. How these trends will interact can be approached from a bottom-up basis. To that end, the following graphs show likely production profiles by region for the next five years.

(Click to enlarge)

Saudi Arabia used to be the world’s swing producer. That role has been taken by the shale drillers of the United States. The graphic assumes that enough shale wells are drilled each year to keep U.S. production flat – profitless prosperity. Mexico’s decline is well established for geological reasons and Venezuela’s decline continues for political reasons.

(Click to enlarge)

Russian production has held up well and, combined with fields in development, it is assumed that Russian production remains in plateau. The Norwegian and UK production declines are well established.

(Click to enlarge)

Algeria and Egypt are in decline. It is assumed that Libyan production will not recover from Tony Blair and Nicholas Sarkozy’s adventure in regime change.

(Click to enlarge)

Iranian production peaked in 1974 at 6.1 million barrels per day as the Shah tried to overtake Saudi production. It is assumed that Iranian production is geologically limited. Iraqi production continues rising despite the civil war raging on. Currently at over 4.0 million barrels per day, Iraq’s geological endowment should see production continuing to rise towards 9.0 million barrels per day. Related: Russia Reaches 2/3 Of Oil Output Cut Target

(Click to enlarge)

Most oil producing countries in the Asia Pacific region are in a well-established decline. They were joined by China in 2016 which has two thirds of its production from giant oilfields that have been in production for decades and now have high water cuts and high operating costs. The graph assumes that China will contribute 1.3 million barrels per day of a 2.1 million barrel per day decline for the region over the next five years. Related: These Fundamentals Point To Higher Oil Prices

Adding all those production profiles results in production in 2022, that is five million barrels per day lower than world production, per BP’s statistics, in 2015. That could be offset by a faster rise in Iraqi production combined with increased shale oil production. According to this graphic from BTU Analytics:


(Click to enlarge)

There are some 290,000-remaining shale oil well locations in the United States. By Enno Peter’s work, about 62,000 shale wells have been drilled in the United States to date. Peak drilling year was 2014 with 14,262 wells drilled for 2.46 million barrels per day of production in January 2015. About half of that number of wells need to be drilled each year now to offset decline in US shale oil production.

From all of the above, not an original conclusion – the U.S. shale oil well inventory is likely to buffer the price of oil for at least the next five years.

By Dennis Coyne via Peakoilbarrel.com

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  • Jack on April 03 2017 said:
    "The graphic assumes that enough shale wells are drilled each year to keep U.S. production flat."

    Seems like a pretty major assumption. Production has been anything but consistent.

    "the U.S. shale oil well inventory is likely to buffer the price of oil for at least the next five years."

    Then what? We're left with the high-priced wells that we can't afford to drill, and we then lose our "swing" status?

    I think this shale revolution is short-lived. Once the easy stuff is out of the way it will be increasingly uneconomical as we trip over ourselves to keep the pace up using inferior sources and diminishing returns of efficiency. The only way shale can remain prominent is if the price skyrockets in five years again, at which point there will be another torrent of wells that quickly oversupply the market and crash it yet again. "Swing state" indeed, just like a pendulum: back and forth to extremes with a quick drop through the stable middle.

    Meanwhile, stable conventional and offshore resources that still provide the vast majority of supply are dwindling, shale is nowhere near plentiful enough to offset it, and recent discoveries are insufficient to meet anticipated demand as current wells become a trickle. That's the bigger long-term problem, and one that the US is ill-equipped to compete in at our current rate. The IEA says as much in their latest report.

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