Center of Gravity in Oil World Shifts to Americas; It's the "Equivalent of a Category 5 Hurricane"
The Washington Post reported recently on the new world energy map that is emerging, and it is no longer centered on the Middle East, but on the Americas:
"From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.
“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”
Oil produced in Persian Gulf countries — notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq — will remain vital to the world’s energy picture. But what was once a seemingly unalterable truth — that American oil production would steadily fall while the United States remained heavily reliant on Middle Eastern supplies — is being turned on its head.
Perhaps the biggest development in the worldwide realignment is how the United States went from importing 60 percent of its liquid fuels in 2005 to 45 percent last year (MP: Net oil imports have since fallen to a 20-year low of 42.4% this year through April, see chart above). The economic downturn in the United States, improvements in automobile efficiency and an increasing reliance on biofuels all played a role.
But a major driver has been the use of hydraulic fracturing. By blasting water, chemicals and tiny artificial beads at high pressure into tight rock formations to make them porous, workers have increased oil production in North Dakota from a few thousand barrels a day a decade ago to nearly half a million barrels today.
Conservative estimates are that oil and natural gas produced through “fracking,” as the process is better known, could amount to 3 million barrels a day by 2020. “We have a revolution here,” said Larry Goldstein, director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation in New York. 'In 47 years in this business, I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.'"