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OWOE - Oil And Gas - How has fracking changed the energy picture in the US?
  Figure 1 - U.S Field Production of Crude Oil (EIA, 2024)
Figure 1 - U.S Field Production of Crude Oil (EIA, 2024)
Figure 2 - US Energy production and consumption history (EIA 2024)
How has fracking changed the energy picture in the US?
Topic updated: 2024-07-07

Oil production in the United States peaked in 1970 at 9.6 million barrels per day, and then began to decline rapidly as major fields were depleted and oil companies began focusing on international sources for new fields. This trend was mitigated to some extent by production from the North Slope of Alaska in the 1980s and the exploitation of significant oil discoveries in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico starting in the 1990s. As worldwide demand for oil surged in the early 2000s, driven in large part by developing countries, supply and demand pushed oil prices to record levels of $100+ per barrel. This economic climate set the stage for what has become the fracking boom in the US.

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, jointly referred to as "fracking", were first combined for shale oil development in the late 1990s and demonstrated that oil and gas flows from such reservoirs could be achieved in commercial quantities. The high price of oil in the 2000s accelerated application of fracking, with the increases in US. oil production due to shale oil being the largest since Colonel Edwin Drake drilled the first oil well in 1859. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. total crude oil production averaged 8.9 million barrels per day in September 2014, driven largely by this growth in shale oil production, and near the peak level in 1970. Figure 1 shows US total annual oil production and illustrates the dramatic impact on production from fracking.

The EIA estimates that there are over 610 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas and 59 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil reserves in the US. This is spread across 30 states in a large number of shale formations. The Barnett Shale in Texas has been producing natural gas for more than a decade and was the proving ground for much of the technology and practices that are now used across the US. The most prolific oil plays currently are the Eagle Ford in Texas, the Bakken in Montana and North Dakota, and the Spraberry in Texas and New Mexico (Permian Basin). The most prolific gas plays currently are the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Haynesville in Texas and Louisiana, and the Barnett in Texas.

The EIA estimates that shale gas could provide a 100-year supply of natural gas in the US. Shale oil development has allowed the US to become the largest producer of oil in the world, which has allowed the US to reduce oil imports from approximately 2/3 of all oil used in the early 2000's to becoming a net oil exporter in 2020 (see Figure 2).

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