New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that U.S. crude oil production is at its highest levels since 1989. December 2013 posted an impressive monthly average of 7.9 million bpd. For 2013, average oil production reached 7.5 million barrels per day. That was 967,000 bpd higher than 2012, a massive jump. The 15% annual increase in production is the largest since 1940.
Much of the production increases came from the Bakken in North Dakota, and the Eagle Ford in Texas. Taken together, these two fields accounted for 83% of 2013's gains. The Bakken averaged 0.9 million bpd for 2013 while the Eagle Ford reached an annual average of 1.22 million bpd. The record production pushed refinery utilization up to 88% for the year.
Higher crude oil production also allowed the U.S. to decrease its oil imports, which fell to 7.6 million bpd, the lowest level since 1996. Imports dropped 10% in 2013, down 861,000 bpd. And since a peak in June 2005 at 10.7 million bpd, imports have declined by 30%.
The EIA expects the rapid growth in oil production to continue, hitting 8.4 million bpd this year. If achieved that would be another remarkable increase of around 900,000 bpd. And for 2015, EIA projects an 800,000 bpd increase, allowing the U.S. to surpass 9.2 million bpd.
The impressive growth in oil production is leading oil companies to call for lifting the crude oil export ban to allow them to export to higher priced markets around the world. Due to infrastructure constraints, some oil can trade at a discount in different parts of the U.S. because of regional gluts. Some members of Congress have also called for lifting the ban. Should oil production continue to climb, pressure will only grow on Congress and the administration to address the issue.
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Written by Joao Peixe at Oilprice.com.