America's shale drillers are poised to ring in the new year with strong growth in the U.S. oil patch, according to the latest forecast from the Department of Energy.
Crude oil production from seven major shale regions is set to grow by 94,000 barrels a day in January, the department's U.S. Energy Information Administration projected on Monday.
Total output from those regions is seen topping 6.4 million barrels a day next month. That would mark growth of more than 1 million barrels a day from this past January, when frackers produced 5.2 million barrels a day.
Most of those gains will come from the Permian basin, a prolific oil-producing region in Texas and New Mexico. Production there is set to rise by 68,000 barrels a day, according to EIA.
The EIA sees output growing by a more muted 9,000 barrels a day in North Dakota's Bakken shale and by 6,000 barrels a day in the Niobrara basin, which sits beneath Colorado and nearby states.
Drillers in these regions free oil and natural gas from shale rock formations through hydraulic fracturing, a process of injecting water, sand and chemicals underground. The shale oil patch — where production can be quickly started up — is fueling a recovery in U.S. production following a slump caused by low crude prices.
U.S. shale oil basins
The EIA last week raised its outlook for U.S. oil output in 2018, saying it will average 10 million barrels a day, compared with 9.2 million barrels a day this year. That would mark the highest annual average production on record.
The 14-member oil cartel OPEC and the Paris-based International Energy Agency have also revised their forecasts for U.S. production. The three organizations between about 800,000 to 1 million barrels a day next year.
In its monthly report, the International Energy Agency said flexibility and innovation in the shale industry are making it difficult for forecasters to predict U.S. output.
There are also questions about how much shale-drilling companies will raise output in the coming year. Companies have recently signaled they will focus on improving their finances and increasing shareholder value rather than going into debt so they can pump more as oil prices rise.