US shale boom masks oil decline

Shale has ignited … but the oil flame isn’t as bright as it was.

Summary: Has oil finally peaked? The US shale boom is firing on all cylinders, but data shows many of the world’s oil producing nations are revealing flat or declining output.
Key take-out: The global oil dynamics have changed: Questions remain over the next steps in the Middle East and when US shale production will reach a peak.
Key beneficiaries: General investors. Category: Commodities.

The US shale oil boom has been getting immense attention, but while the American energy sector thrives, new information from the authoritative US-based EIA (Energy Information Authority) shows many of the world’s key oil producing nations are revealing either flat or declining production.

Recent US shale oil growth sits on top of a bumpy production plateau of the rest-of-the-world.

Other Middle East countries (Syria, Yemen, Oman) were in long-term decline until 2007. Just when Oman experienced a rebound, production in Syria and Yemen collapsed due to civil unrest, which was at least in part caused by production having peaked in these countries.
Similarly, Iran’s production drop due to sanctions could not be offset by production gains in Iraq. Saudi production increased in response to Libya’s production losses. Despite production spikes, Saudi’s average crude production 2006-2013 was 450,000 barrels a day lower than in 2005!

It seems to get ever harder to increase production. Azerbaijan, for example, has clearly ‘maxed out’.

Africa has peaked.

Chinese crude production increased by just 1 million b/d over a long period of 12 years, basically offsetting a steady decline in the rest of Asia.

Crude production in Brazil had a maximum in January 2012. Colombia has had a hard time increasing production. Venezuela’s production has remained on exactly the same plateau for several years, suggesting that the data may not be accurate.

While Mexico’s production has peaked, US shale oil and Canada’s synthetic crude production from tar sands is, of course, increasing.

The world outside the US and the Middle East peaked in January 2011 at 40.9 million b/d, marked by the production drops during the Libyan civil war. The issue now is what will happen next in the Middle East? And when will the US shale oil boom reach a peak?

This article first published at, a ‘peak oil monitoring’ service run by Matt Mushalik (MEAust, CPEng).

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