While the U.S. rig count keeps falling, weak oil prices won’t stop the United States from becoming a net energy exporter in the coming decades, the Energy Information Administration’s 2015 annual energy outlook said.
The agency expects “strong” domestic crude production growth, thanks in large part to tight oil and gas, that will lead to a decline in net imports and growth in net exports in all price scenarios during 2015.
Crude and petroleum net imports are expected to fall from 6.2 million barrels per day in 2013 to 3.3 million bpd in 2040 while gross exports of refined products, especially gasoline and diesel, will create a “significant” spike in net exports between 2013 and 2040.
In the case of low oil prices, where Brent crude hits $52 per barrel in 2014 and rises to $76 per barrel in 2040, the United States would remain a net importer through 2040, the report said.
The agency said that if oil prices stay within the lower end of its forecast U.S. drillers will pump 9.8 million bpd in 2020, 700,000 bpd less than the agency expected last year.
Overall crude production is expected to grow from 7.4 million bpd in 2013 to 9.4 million bpd in 2040, a 26 percent spike over last year’s reference case despite lower prices.
Lower 48 onshore tight oil production is expected to hit 5.6 million bpd in 2020 before slumping to 4.3 million bpd in 2040, 34 percent more growth than projected in last year’s report.
Production in the Gulf of Mexico is also expected to rise through 2019 in all price scenarios but will fluctuate after a decline slated to last “at least through 2025.”
Dry natural gas production will likely dip after 2019 compared to last year’s forecast although the United States is still expected to become an overall natural gas net exporter in 2017, a year earlier than previous models suggested.
Mexico will be the biggest beneficiary of booming U.S. gas production with net pipeline exports to south of the border growing nearly twofold from 2017 to 2040 although export levels could drop as Mexico ramps up domestic production.