U.S. to overtake Saudi as top oil producer - IEA

LONDON Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:41am EST

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LONDON Nov 12 (Reuters) - The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer by 2017, the West's energy agency said on Monday as a steep rise in shale oil and gas production pushes the country toward self-sufficiency in energy.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises major industrialised nations on energy policies, gave the estimates in an annual long-term report. Its conclusions were in sharp contrast with its 2011 report, which saw Saudi Arabia remaining the top producer throughout 2035.

"Energy developments in the United States are profound and their effect will be felt well beyond North America - and the energy sector," the IEA said.

"The recent rebound in U.S. oil and gas production, driven by upstream technologies that are unlocking light tight oil and shale gas resources, is spurring economic activity - with less expensive gas and electricity prices giving industry a competitive edge," it added.

The IEA said it saw a continued fall in U.S. oil imports with North America becoming a net oil exporter by around 2030.

IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol told a news conference in London he believed the United States would overtake Russia as the biggest gas producer by a significant margin by 2015. Shortly after that, by 2017, the United States would become the largest oil producer, he said.

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