U.S. Fossil Fuel Production Will Continue to Climb

Smoke stacks at a fossil fuel plant.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently offered a forecast showing that total fossil fuel production in the United States will reach its highest level on record in 2018, only to set another potential record in 2019, rising to 75 quadrillion BTU. Fossil fuels include dry natural gas, crude oil, coal, and hydrocarbon gas liquids.

The record production levels are largely attributable to production spikes of natural gas and crude oil enabled by the use of hydraulic fracturing. The EIA expects increases in the production of natural gas to be the leading contributor to overall fossil fuel production growth in 2018. Increases in crude oil production growth will be the leading contributor in 2019.

In both years, the expected growth in natural gas, crude oil, and HGL production will more than offset anticipated declines in coal production. On a heat-content basis, dry natural gas accounted for the largest share of fossil fuel production in 2017, at 41 percent. Crude oil was second at 29 percent.

As recently as 2010, coal was the leading source of fossil fuel production but should remain in third place, accounting for 23 percent of the total.

In 2018, the EIA forecasts dry natural gas production will increase by nine percent from 2017 levels, which would be the highest annual average on record. This growth will most likely emanate from Appalachia’s Marcellus and Utica Shales, along with the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico.

Production of crude oil in the U.S. is anticipated to average 10.3 million barrels per day in 2018, up 10 percent from 2017. This level would surpass the previous record of 9.6 million b/d that was set in 1970. In 2019, the EIA is forecasting crude oil production to continue to rise, reaching an average of 10.8 million b/d.

Just like natural gas projections, the Permian region in Texas and New Mexico are expected to play a key role in these increases. However, with seven new oil-producing projects slated to come online by the end of 2019, the Gulf of Mexico will also be a key geography.

U.S. coal consumption is projected to fall the next two years. The EIA expects relatively low natural gas prices to reduce the demand for coal used to produce electricity. 

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