Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

One in every two barrels of US oil comes from fracking

A fracking rig in Texas A fracking rig in Texas NeonLight
01 Apr
2016
Hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ – now accounts for more than half of all US crude oil output

From two per cent 15 years ago, fracked oil now accounts for 50 per cent of America’s daily oil production. A trickle of 102,000 barrels per day in 2000 has become a flood of 4.3 million barrels per day in 2015. So much growth has allowed the country’s oil production to increase faster than any time in its history. ‘It has undoubtedly re-shaped the US,’ says Neil Hirst, Senior Policy Fellow for Energy and Mitigation at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, ‘and to some extent also the global energy landscape.’

graph2
Oil production in the US in million of barrels per day from 2000 to 2015 (Image: Energy Information Administration)

The new oil is produced from shale, a fine grained rock, and other ‘tight’ rock formations mostly from the states of Texas, Montana and North Dakota. The process involves deep drilling vertically to shale layers, before ‘fracturing’ horizontally with a high pressure water mixture in order to release the crude oil within. On a national scale, it has displaced coal for power generation and reduced some of the US’ greenhouse gas emissions. However, potential dangers such as contaminating the water supply and destabilising the geology has made the fad a controversial one. For now, fracking production outstrips thorough knowledge of its impacts.

map3These key shale oil producing regions accounted for all domestic oil production growth between 2011 to 2014 (Image: EIA)

On an international scale, fracking has ‘brought North America close to energy self-sufficiency,’ says Hirst ,‘which has been a strategic objective of US policy for decades.’ America is now third in the world for oil production, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. With shale oil, the US has been able to separate itself from the Organisation of Petroleum Countries (OPEC), which includes oil-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Algeria. It is also responsible for the lower oil prices currently being experienced around the world. ‘Of course this may not last,’ says Hirst. ‘Because shale oil is relatively high cost we must expect a pause, and probably a decline in US shale oil production while oil prices remain low.’

In the medium term, however, he predicts that fracking will continue to play a large part of US oil production: ‘When oil prices have returned to a level closer to the marginal production cost, shale oil production will probably resume its growth as a large share of total US oil production.’

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Geophoto

It takes a lot more than the latest research data…

Wildlife

NGOs shine a light on the underreporting of wildlife crime…

Wildlife

Pioneering laser photography is being used by scientists on the…

Geophoto

Annual competition looks to celebrate island life in all its…

Oceans

Increasing interest in offshore aquaculture is dividing environmentalists

Energy

Well-meaning promises don’t always have positive outcomes. Marco Magrini finds…

Wildlife

The RSPB introduces a new hotline for reporting the unlawful…

Wildlife

With the death earlier this week of the world’s last…

Geophoto

The essence of street photography is its raw, unfiltered, unstaged…

Energy

For Marco Magrini, a tax on fossil fuels would be…

Wildlife

Half of animal species in world’s most biodiverse areas could…

Wildlife

Four-year project to reestablish safe breeding grounds for seabirds on…

Wildlife

First global atlas of soil bacteria reveals a small minority…

Polar

Scientists discover how shrubs are dominating the Arctic tundra

Wildlife

War and conservation have a complicated relationship, with two studies…

Climate

Why is Europe so cold right now? Marco Magrini suggests…

Wildlife

Threatened Californian owls are suffering from digesting rat poison administered…

Oceans

With the majority of the ocean still remaining undiscovered, a…

Oceans

Belize bans offshore oil extraction to protect the second longest…

Geophoto

With their horns still much-prized by poachers, will the revered…