Surging oil output will push US towards energy independence in 2020, Dept of Energy says

  • The Department of Energy forecasts U.S. oil production will jump from 10.9 million barrels per day in 2018 to 12.9 million bpd in 2020.
  • The same year, the nation will start exporting more crude oil and fuel than it imports, the agency says.
  • Natural gas output is also seen hitting new all-time highs.
Workers connect drill bits and drill collars, used to extract natural petroleum, on Endeavor Energy Resources LP's Big Dog Drilling Rig 22 in the Permian basin outside of Midland, Texas.
Brittany Sowacke | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Workers connect drill bits and drill collars, used to extract natural petroleum, on Endeavor Energy Resources LP's Big Dog Drilling Rig 22 in the Permian basin outside of Midland, Texas.

The U.S. will make major strides towards energy independence in the next two years as oil production and exports hit new highs, according to the Department of Energy.

U.S. oil production, already at an all-time high this year, will increase by another 2 million barrels per day by 2020, the agency's statistics bureau projects. The same year, the nation will start exporting more crude oil and fuel than it imports, the Energy Information Administration said in in its latest forecast.

American drillers pumped an average 10.9 million bpd in 2018, breaking the record going back to 1970. EIA sees U.S. output averaging 12.1 million bpd this year and 12.9 million bpd in 2020.

"According to the January outlook, the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico will continue to push U.S. production into record territory over the next 24 months, approaching 13 million barrels per day some time in 2020," EIA Administrator Linda Capuano said in a statement.

Most of the growth is coming from shale fields like the Permian, where frackers use advanced drilling methods known as hydraulic fracturing to free oil and natural gas from rock formations.

The surge in U.S. production is making the country less reliant on foreign oil. In 2018, net imports of oil and petroleum products fell from 3.8 million bpd to 2.4 million bpd. EIA forecasts net imports will dwindle to 1.1 million bpd next year and just 100,000 bpd in 2020. In the final three months of 2020, EIA thinks the U.S. will become a net exporter by about 900,000 bpd.

The U.S. already ships out more natural gas than it imports. Next year, gas production will jump another 8 percent to a new all-time high at 90.2 billion cubic feet per day, EIA projects. Growth in 2020 is seen slowing, with gas output hitting 92.2 Bcf per day.

By 2020, EIA thinks natural gas will generate 37 percent of the country's electric power, up from 35 percent last year. Meanwhile, coal's share of electric power generation will slip from 28 percent to 24 percent during the same period. That will help contribute to a further drop in U.S. coal production.

Renewable energy like wind and solar power will also play a part in coal's decline. EIA sees clean energy, excluding hydropower, growing from 10 percent of the electric power mix to 13 percent.