U.S. oil output to overtake Saudi Arabia’s by 2020

Overtaking Saudi Arabia

The U.S. will pump 11.1 million barrels of oil a day in 2020 and 10.9 million in 2025, the IEA said. Those figures are 500,000 barrels a day and 100,000 barrels a day higher, respectively, than its forecasts for Saudi Arabia for those years. The desert kingdom becomes the biggest producer again by 2030, pumping 11.4 million barrels a day versus 10.2 million in the U.S.

“Around 2017, the U.S. will be the largest oil producer of the world, overtaking Saudi Arabia,” IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said at a press conference in London today. “This is of course a major development and definitely will have significant implications.”

An oil ministry official based in the Saudi capital Riyadh wasn’t immediately available to comment on the report when contacted by Bloomberg by phone today.

The IEA report described the U.S.’s advancement toward energy self-sufficiency as “a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy-importing countries.” The country is developing so-called tight oil reserves including the Bakken shale formation, which are extracted by hydraulic fracturing or horizontal drilling.

Shrinking Imports

U.S. oil imports will drop to about 4 million barrels a day in 10 years from a current average of 10 million because of new production and stricter fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, which will curb demand, Birol said.

The IEA is not alone in forecasting that the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the largest oil producer. The U.S. will achieve that goal before the end of this decade, Citigroup Inc. said in a March 20 report that included biofuels and natural gas liquids in the tally.

The European Union banned oil imports from Iran in July over the nation’s nuclear program, reducing shipments from a country that was until then the second-biggest producer in OPEC.

The IEA’s members will probably pay about $125 a barrel for imported oil by 2035, compared with Brent crude prices near $109 today on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. The North Sea grade peaked at a record $147.50 a barrel in July 2008 before tumbling to about $46 that December, and has gained in each of the three years since then.

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