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U.S. Becomes World’s Top Oil Producer in 2013, PIRA Says

The U.S. is expected to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world biggest total supplier of oil this year when natural gas liquids and biofuels are added to crude, PIRA Energy Group said.

The U.S. is projected to produce an average of 12.1 million barrels a day of liquids in 2013, 300,000 barrels a day higher than Saudi Arabia and 1.6 million more than Russia, according to data presented at PIRA’s Retainer Client Seminar Oct. 10 and Oct. 11 in New York.

The U.S. position has improved because of surging “shale oil” output, the New York-based energy consultant said. The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked supplies in shale formations in the central part of the country. Shale liquids output has climbed 3.2 million barrels a day in the last four years, the biggest gain since Saudi Arabia raised production between 1970 and 1974.

“This isn’t a big surprise but notable all the same,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. “This is another sign of the successful story that is horizontal drilling.”

The U.S. is forecast to pump 7.4 million barrels a day of crude and condensate, 2.5 million of natural gas liquids and 1 million of biofuels, according to PIRA. It also counted almost 1.3 million of “refinery gains,” a measure of the ability of refineries to optimize output through high-conversion capabilities.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and Russia pump about 3 million barrels a day more crude oil than the U.S., PIRA said.

Total U.S. liquids supply is projected to climb 1 million barrels in 2013, about the same as last year’s growth, PIRA said. This is greater than the sum of the next nine fastest-growing countries combined and has covered most global demand gain over the past two years.

U.S. liquids output will probably rise faster than that in Saudi Arabia and Russia until after 2020 and the nation should maintain the lead through 2030, according to PIRA.

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