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

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...

Oceans

Millions of oysters have been rescued from the struggling shellfish…

Climate

History is littered with examples of fungi helping to digest…

Geophoto

The streets of Philadelphia are home to a small and forgotten…

Geophoto

When photographer Matthew Maran first snapped a fox he had…

Wildlife

Coloradans have voted to reintroduce grey wolves to the state

Energy

Covid-19 provides an opportunity to re-assess the supply chains of…

Geophoto

Andrea DiCenzo is a photojournalist, who has covered conflicts for…

Oceans

Field observations of corals around the world reveal that not…

Climate

The Great Plains of the USA are once again getting…

Climate

Attempts to build a digital twin of the Earth could…

Oceans

Food systems will need to change as the global population…

Wildlife

Zoos do a lot more than welcome excited visitors; closures…

Oceans

 BluHope is back with a day of webinars to promote…

Wildlife

WildEast, a grassroots community initiative, is encouraging volunteers to commit…

Wildlife

With growing global awareness of the risks of hunting and…

Climate

Researchers have identified the extent of microplastic contamination throughout the…

Wildlife

The Thames Estuary has long been home to heavy industry,…

Wildlife

Whydahs and indigobirds, collectively known as the vidua finches, show…