In today’s rapidly changing business environment, it is worth considering the place of crude oil production in the economy as a whole. Most business analysts believe that we have nearly reached “peak oil,” where the global production of petroleum products has reached its highest point. “Peak oil” does not signal the beginning of the end for the petroleum industry, only that future extraction methods are not likely to be able to raise annual production.
The future of crude oil may be tied to the future of all sectors of the energy business. Manjit Singh Sahota, an expert in the energy market, examines the current state of the crude oil industry and offers possible projections for its future.
The world’s major deposits of crude oil are located in Saudi Arabia, the United States, Iran, China, and Russia. Petroleum is produced in 31 U.S. states, including Oklahoma, Louisiana, California, Alaska, and Texas. Many people do not understand the natural state of oil in the environment. Oil is not found in underground pools, but rather, in reservoirs mixed with rocks.
The process of extracting oil from the earth is complex. The first step in the process is drilling. Oil producers rely on the work of geologists to help them determine the best places to drill for oil. Using updated techniques like sonic waves or electric currents, oil producers can find the most likely places for an oil reservoir.
Oil wells first undergo a process called “primary production.” This is when the oil reservoir is able to be tapped without the introduction of pressurized systems like water wells. “Secondary production” happens when oil reservoirs are pressurized using injection wells.
What is Crude Oil?
Crude oil is the natural state of oil when it emerges from the ground. Crude oil is then processed into gasoline, fuel oil, heavy fuel oil, and petrochemical products. Other methods of extraction result in an oil that must be processed more in order to be usable.
World Supplies of Oil
While the United States produces a great deal of oil on its own, only about 60 percent of the country’s needs are met by internal production. Up to 40 percent of the oil needed by U.S. industries every day must be imported from another country. This can create a sometimes-uneven trade balance between the United States and other countries.
It also means that the United States’ oil reserves and prices are often determined by factors out of its control. For example, drone strikes on oil production facilities recently and dramatically reduced the oil production of Saudi Arabia and impacted the price of crude oil.
Oil Production by the Numbers
Each day, the world produces 80.6 million barrels of oil. The United States is the top producer of oil currently, with 15.1 million barrels per day. Generally, there has been an upward trend in oil production since the early 2000s. The number of barrels produced by each country is affected by local economic conditions as well as global demand.
Future of Crude Oil
As crude oil supplies begin to decline over the next century, new sources of oil will need to be explored. There is already a great deal of shale oil production in the United States and Canada, but this practice will likely expand around the world as the easily tapped oil reservoirs begin to produce less efficiently.
Crude oil prices are predicted to rise over the next few years, driven by global conditions. The possibility of a renewed war in the Middle East will likely cause prices to rise based on lower production numbers. However, production will continue at a high rate. The United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve may be used to combat the effects of Middle East price increases on global prices.
The overall production of crude oil and lease condensate is projected to grow from 20 quads (quadrillion BTUs) to 30 quads in 2022. The Federal Energy Information Administration predicts that oil production in quads will plateau between 2022 and 2040 and will begin to decline back to 25 quads by 2040.
Factors Affecting Oil Prices
Although there have been many warnings regarding the use of fossil fuels like crude oil, global demand and supply will remain high well into the 2040s. As alternative forms of energy like solar and wind power are expanded, they may have an unpredictable effect on crude oil use and prices.
Oil Fuels Electricity
One part of oil production that many people do not consider when they add up the output of crude oil is that a large portion of it is used to generate electricity. Thus, when consumers use plug-in electric cars and other large rechargeable batteries, they are not actually participating in an environmentally friendly activity. Renewable energy sources are far below oil production in market share.
Changes in Oil Production
As supplies of light crude oil begin to taper off, the world will have to turn to other types of oil for its daily needs for energy. In Canada, Venezuela, and the United States, there are huge deposits of shale and heavy oil. Heavy oil is more expensive and difficult to process than light crude, but it could present a unique opportunity to keep the oil industry going even 200 years into the future.
Predicting the Future
As always, predicting the future remains an inexact science. There may be new market pressures which change the fortunes of the crude oil industry. Overall, the state of the crude oil industry should remain the same well into the future. Manjit Singh Sahota encourages all interested parties to keep close watch on oil and energy statistics to learn as much as possible about this important economic engine.