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

U.S. oil output is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia’s in the next decade, making the world’s biggest fuel consumer almost self-reliant and putting it on track to become a net exporter, the International Energy Agency said.

Growing supplies of crude extracted through new technology including hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations will transform the U.S. into the largest producer for about five years starting about 2020, the Paris-based adviser to 28 nations said today in its annual World Energy Outlook. The U.S. met 83 percent of its energy needs in the first six months of this year, according to the Energy Department in Washington.

“The IEA outlook feeds into the idea of a shift in the center of influence in the world oil market,” said Gareth Lewis-Davies, an analyst at BNP Paribas SA in London. “Given Saudi Arabia is willing to shift production up and down it will retain a large degree of influence, and remain important as a price-influencer.”

The U.S., where crude imports have fallen 11 percent this year, is on track to produce the most oil since 1991, according to Energy Department data. In a year when Iran has threatened to halt Persian Gulf oil shipments, the growing output, coupled with a gas-production boom, may help insulate the nation from supply disruptions. President Barack Obama cited “freeing ourselves from foreign oil” as a goal for policy makers in his election victory speech last week, echoing his predecessor, George W. Bush, who in 2006 called for the U.S. to break its “addiction” to imported crude.

Oil Prices

West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark U.S. grade, has dropped 13 percent this year to $85.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as stockpiles swelled to a 22-year high. Prices have more than quadrupled in the past decade, reaching as high as $147.27 a barrel in July 2008.

Global demand for oil is projected to rise to 99.7 million barrels a day in 2035, up from 87.4 million last year, according to IEA, which advises industrialized nations including the U.S., Germany and Japan. Today’s report projects trends to 2035.

Saudi Arabia pumped 9.8 million barrels of oil a day last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.S. output was 6.7 million barrels a day in the week ended Nov. 2, according to the Energy Department.

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