U.S. oil output to surpass imports for 1st time since 1995 -EIA

March 20 Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:09am EDT

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March 20 (Reuters) - U.S. oil production is set to surpass the amount of crude the country imports for the first time since 1995 later this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

The boom in U.S. shale or tight oil production unleashed by advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing - known as "fracking" - is expected to see U.S. output top 8 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of 2014, the EIA said. That would be the highest level since 1988.

"Monthly crude oil production in the United States is expected to exceed the amount of U.S. crude oil imports later this year for the first time since February 1995," the EIA, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, said on its website.

"The gap between monthly U.S. crude oil production and imports is projected to be almost 2 million barrels per day by the end of next year."

U.S. oil output has surged from less than 6 million bpd in early 2011 to above 7 million bpd currently.

Since late 2010, a combination of higher production and falling demand has slashed the need for imports from just under 10 million bpd to less than 8 million bpd, EIA data shows.

The price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil has been pressured relative to seaborne crudes such as North Sea Brent by rising U.S. production.

The United States' continued reliance on imports, however, has left gasoline and diesel prices closely linked to more expensive crude from overseas.

On Wednesday, U.S. crude oil was trading near $93 a barrel and Brent was above $108 a barrel.

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