America’s suddenly bright energy future has been well-publicized, but did you know that the US is now producing more than 10 percent of the global supply of oil? That’s a remarkable milestone, made all the more so by the rapid pace at which it was reached. The key driver behind this renaissance: fracking, which has released so-called “tight oil” trapped in rock such as shale. In fact, as the EIA reports, more than 40 percent of American crude production in the fourth quarter of 2013:
U.S. tight oil production averaged 3.22 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This level was enough to push overall crude oil production in the United States to an average of 7.84 MMbbl/d, more than 10% of total world production, up from 9% in the fourth quarter of 2012. The United States and Canada are the only major producers of tight oil in the world. In recent years, North American producers have developed technologically advanced drilling and completion processes to produce oil from tight formations.
No one outside of North America has been able to produce tight oil in commercial quantities; less than 1 percent of the oil produced outside of the United States was fracked. Russia has the world’s largest estimated tight oil reserves, but has made precious little progress exploring the resource. China has considerable reserves of its own, but despite a concerted effort to boost shale drilling, has yet to replicate America’s success.That’s because the shale boom has been a uniquely American phenomenon, for a number of reasons. The rest of the world is playing catch up, but for now, the US can reap the benefits of its unique position as the first mover in fracking.