mardi 16 juin 2015

The new American revolution: oil, shale gas and geopolitics

The US oil production, looming on oil balance and geopolitics

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In 2014, the US became the first global oil producer, overcoming Saudi Arabia - Dermot Tatlow/PANOS-REA
"Les Échos", 10/06/2015, Anne Feitz
According to BP annual statistics report, the US overcame Saudi Arabia in terms of oil production in 2014. The US production rose faster than expected, thanks to the shale oil orientation.
A highly symbolic benchmark was reached in the oil global market. According to the annual statistics energy report released Wednesday by BP, the US became the world's largest oil producer, thus overcoming Saudi Arabia and Russia last year. According to the oil company, the US gross production (liquefied gas included) increased by 1.6 million barrels a day (Mb / d) to reach 11.64 mb / d, while the Saudi output remained broadly stable at 11.5 mb / d. Then, Russia, ranking three,  extracted 10.84 mb / d in 2014.
This is the first time that a non official but reliable source put the US on the first rank among oil producers for forty years: according to BP, this has not happened since 1975. No surprise given the spectacular growth experienced by the US production thanks to the revolution of shale oil: since the mid-2000s, the combined use of the hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling technologies enable to extract oil and gas trapped in the bedrocks.
This revolution has already enabled the US to become the world's largest producer of natural gas in 2011, overcoming Russia. Since 2012, the country has become the world leader in hydrocarbon production (crude oil, gas, oil products, etc). In late 2012, the IEA (International Energy Agency) created a sensation by predicting that the bar would be completed for oil by 2020. This has been reached several years ahead of all expectations. The production of unconventional oil, mainly concentrated in the basins of North Dakota, Texas, and New Mexico alone reached 3.6 mb / d last year according to the IEA. "This is the first time that a country increases its production of more than 1 Mb / day for three consecutive years," BP highlights.
Global shockwave
The sudden rise in power of the US oil market has already caused a global shockwave. First, initiating the oil price drop since June 2014, related to an overproduction estimated at 1.5-2 Mb / d. $ 105 a year ago; WTI price in New York fell by 60%, before recovering to just over $ 60 in recent weeks. Then, major geopolitical balances started to be disrupted, as the United States has sharply reduced its dependence on Middle East oil, with imports from this region cut by 20% since 2010.

The question is now whether it's a continuous trend. While OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, refuses to cut its production quotas to support prices, many analysts are expecting a fall of the US oil production in the coming months. In its latest monthly report, the US Department of Energy considered that the US production would reached a new record at 9.6 mb / d in May (excluding liquefied natural gas), but it should decline between June and early 2016 before rising again.

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