American oil production grew by more than one million barrels per day last year, the largest single jump since we started keeping records more than a century ago. The EIA reports:
U.S. crude oil production (including lease condensate) increased during 2014 by 1.2 million barrels per day (bbl/d) to 8.7 million bbl/d, the largest volume increase since recordkeeping began in 1900. On a percentage basis, output in 2014 increased by 16.2%, the highest growth rate since 1940. Most of the increase during 2014 came from tight oil plays in North Dakota, Texas, and New Mexico where hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling were used to produce oil from shale formations.
In percentage terms, the 2014 increase is the largest in more than six decades. Annual increases in crude oil production regularly surpassed 15% in the first half of the 20th century, but those changes were relatively less in absolute terms because production levels were much lower than they are now. Crude oil production in the United States has increased in each of the previous six years. This trend follows a period from 1985 to 2008 in which crude oil production fell in every year (except one).
That’s not a misprint—U.S. crude production grew by more than 16 percent from 2013 to 2014. 16 percent! And that increase came after five steady years of production growth, a renaissance which itself followed more than twenty years of production decline.
America’s energy fortunes have been completely remade by the shale boom, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better description of it than the one captured by these annual production numbers. Fracking has bolstered our energy security and given us more options abroad, and has fundamentally changed the way we think about these issues; our energy problems these days are more likely to be characterized by abundance than they are of scarcity.
The crash in oil prices will have a dampening effect on 2015’s numbers, no doubt, but already we’re seeing the U.S. shale industry surprise the world with its resilience to these changing market conditions. And while the rest of the world struggles to get their own shale operations off the ground, America continues to break records.