Future U.S. tight oil and shale gas production depends on resources, technology, markets

August 25, 2016

Kenan Institute Oil Production Chart

A principal contributor to this report, Faouzi Aloulou, spoke at the Kenan-Flagler Energy Center’s 2016 conference “Global Fracking: What has to change for it to be a game changer?”

Based on projections in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2016 (AEO2016), U.S. tight oil production is expected to reach 7.08 million barrels per day (b/d), and shale gas production is expected to reach 79 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2040. These values reflect Reference case projections, while several side cases with different assumptions of oil prices, technological advances, and resource availability have different levels of tight oil and shale gas production.

U.S. production of tight oil and shale gas has increased significantly from 2010 to 2015, driven by technological improvements that have reduced drilling costs and improved drilling efficiency in major shale plays, such as the Bakken, Marcellus, and Eagle Ford.

Production from tight oil in 2015 was 4.89 million barrels per day, or 52% of total U.S. crude oil production. From 2015 to 2017, tight oil production is projected to decrease by 700,000 barrels per day in the Reference case, mainly attributed to low oil prices and the resulting cuts in investment. However, production declines will continue to be mitigated by reductions in cost and improvements in drilling techniques. The use of more efficient hydraulic fracturing techniques and the application of multiwell-pad drilling, as well as changes in well completion designs, will allow producers to recover greater volumes from a single well.

As oil prices recover, oil production from tight formations is expected to increase. By 2019, Bakken oil production is projected to reach 1.3 million b/d, surpassing the Eagle Ford to become the largest tight oil-producing formation in the United States. The Bakken, which spans 37,000 square miles in North Dakota and Montana, has a technically recoverable resource of 23 billion barrels of tight oil that can be produced based on current technology, industry practice, and geologic knowledge. Bakken production is projected to reach 2.3 million barrels per day by 2040, almost a third of the projected U.S. total tight oil production.

Natural gas production from shale gas plays in 2015 accounted for 37.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), or 50% of total U.S. natural gas production. [… Find the complete article and the energy outlook on the EIA website]. 

Energy at Kenan-Flagler

The UNC Kenan-Flagler Energy Center promotes sound public policy through balanced programming, research, and career placement across the energy value chain. The Center strives to advances sound, conscientious, and innovative leadership in the energy space through comprehensive programming for UNC Kenan-Flagler students.

Building Logo

An affiliate of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise | kenaninstitute@unc.edu | 919.962.8201

Other Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise Affiliates