Texas Shale Puts U.S. Back on Top in Oil Producing

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First Texas had Spindletop, now it's shale oil.
Once upon a time, way back when, the United States was at the top of the oil-production food chain, because, basically, you could poke a hole in the ground seemingly just about anywhere and the black gold would come bubbling up. (Seriously, that's basically what happened when they dug down 1,139 feet and Spindletop started gushing in Beaumont.)

Well, all of that changed over the course of the 20th century as the U.S. turned from being one of the biggest oil producers to being a country that ate up as much oil as we produced and then eventually started importing oil to keep everyone sated and oil-filled and happy.

Of course, all the while, Texas was one of the main producers of the stuff -- oil was called Texas Tea for a reason -- but after the energy crisis of the 1970s (we were running out of oil) and bust of the 1980s (there was lots of it and prices tanked), it seemed like the U.S. would never again produce more oil than it imported, and would always be showing up at the backdoors of other countries and leaning hard on OPEC (a.k.a. the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, a cartel that works together to line up their oil policies) to keep the oil flowing in.

This is the first time the production/import balance has shifted away from bringing oil in since 1997, according to a report from the Energy Information Administration, an arm of the Energy Department.

But then the shale plays started booming thanks to slant drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques that came right out of Texas. Before these dense, brittle formations deep below the surface started bubbling up crude oil a couple of years back, it seemed as if our time as an oil giant was a thing of the past, but the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, the Barnett Shale in North Texas (though this one is mostly natural gas, it got the shale fad started) and the Cline Shale in West Texas have changed all of that.

(Note: There's also the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and the Bakken in North Dakota, but the Marcellus is mostly natural gas and Bakken is basically in the middle of nowhere, so we're being a little snotty and lumping them over here in this little aside to you, avid reader.)

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This is just another shale boom being mistaken for a magic resurgence. The U.S. is drilling for desperation oil and doing a good job of it, but the fundamental geology of the 1970 U.S. peak of 10 MBPD remains. All one need do is run the math. America alone consumes about 20 MBPD and we're producing less than a third of our daily needs at home. It's coming from tight sources prone to peaking much faster than the original free-flowing crude, and it won't affect global market prices that much.

These semi-new horizontal drilling techniques and fracking are not going to get exponentially more efficient, and may be as good as it ever gets, so don't bank on technology to save us. Remember, fracking doesn't come cheap in terms of net-energy or water. These wells are only viable when prices are already high.

Another critical factor being ignored by Peak Oil deniers is that these shale plays are occurring with crude reserves from OPEC and other nations still backing them up. When world crude oil falls precipitously (the IEA says global crude already peaked in 2006) tight oil will have a much greater burden of supply put on it. That's when the "real" Peak Oil will hit and shale-blinded optimists will see that finite still means finite.


This is by far the most amazing thing I have heard in a while. Why is it so amazing? Because you Americans are so likely to actually believe this, and even put you money on the line because of it. They want you to be calm, and believe that "all will be well." The truth is, it will not be okay, and this article is excessively misleading; at best. Peak Oil happened, as predicted, in 1970 in the US. The US is no longer a "producer" of oil; as far as import to export is concerned. The World will never "run out" of Oil completely, but only because extracting every drop from the earth is not physically possible. This does not matter, in fact it does not even matter in the short term. The world economies; even the Stalinist ones of pre-90's, were built on Oil. The time will come very soon, that hiding the end of abundant/inexpensive oil, will no longer be possible. As soon as the mass populations can not delude themselves anymore, what happened in 1929 US, will happen globally...but worse. If there is a plane in the sky or transport ship in the sea after 2025; it will be a freak mercilessly. Believe this or not, I know the truth is often fought against, and your instinct is to believe the best case, not the likely case. See: "The Long Emergency," a book.


@introspective Give it up, hotshot.  The fact of increased production is not part of a "conspiracy theory".  It's happening and it's happening right now. 

Contrary to popular believe, possession of a crystal ball does not confer omniscience. 


@emmert @introspective: It's "happening" but it's still just a tight oil boom, not a real resurgence. It's a lot like the last gasp of a dying man. 

Run the math of America's total oil output vs. American demand and world demand. Remember, oil is a global commodity and has no borders anymore. Even if we could wall off the U.S. we're producing less than a third of the oil we use, and these "new" tight shale sources will have a much faster peaking trajectory than our original 1970 peak.

Most people don't bother to learn petroleum geology or compare supply to total demand. They just see oil flowing again locally and think "this will save us!" without asking for details or historical context.

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