US replaces Saudi Arabia as top oil producer

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Brendan Bordelon Contributor
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The United States will outstrip Saudi Arabia in total liquid fuel production by the end of 2013, an extraordinary surge to the top driven by the tremendous success of America’s natural gas industry.

On Tuesday, PIRA Energy Group released a study estimating America’s total liquid fuel production — including liquid natural gas and biofuels — at 12.1 million barrels per day. That’s 300,000 more barrels than the Saudis and 1.6 million more than Russia, according to Bloomberg.

The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported that the federal Energy Information Administration already expected such a development, but PIRA’s report offers confirmation and further details.

The shift comes despite a global uptick in oil production, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which set fresh production records each of the last three months. Last year, the International Energy Agency said it may take until 2020 for the U.S. to become the world’s top oil producer.

“(The U.S.) growth rate is greater than the sum of the growth of the next nine fastest growing countries combined,” PIRA wrote on Tuesday.

America’s meteoric rise to the top of the oil charts is due to “fracking,” a new horizontal drilling method capable of unlocking vast natural gas reserves previously hidden under shale formations. Since 2009, the daily output of these formations has increased by 3.2 million barrels, the greatest increase in fossil fuel production since Saudi Arabia in the early 1970s.

The United States, which is sometimes called “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” contains enough of the stuff to supply Americans’ current energy needs for the next 105 years.

PIRA also credited new conversion methods practiced by U.S. refineries for an additional 1.3 million increase in barrels per day.

Total U.S. liquid fuel production breaks down to 7.4 million barrels per day of crude and condensate, 2.5 million of liquid natural gas and 1 million of biofuels. Saudi Arabia and Russia each still produce about 3 million more barrels of crude oil per day than the United States.

PIRA expects American output of liquid fuels to grow faster than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and believes the United States will retain its status as top oil producer until at least 2030.

“The U.S. position as the largest oil supplier in the world looks to be secure for many years,” they wrote.

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