US could become world's biggest liquid fuels producer by 2014


RIYADH -- Total US production of liquid fuels could equal or surpass Saudi Arabia as early as next year, but crude oil production will remain short of that in the Middle Eastern energy giant, said the chief of the US Energy Information Administration.

US crude oil production will hit an average of 8 million bpd by the end of next year, the highest annual-average level of production since 1988 thanks to the boom in shale oil, the EIA's administrator, Adam Sieminski, told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

This is likely to remain short of crude oil production in Saudi Arabia, but adding in other liquid fuels, the US could gain the top spot, he said.

The US also produces around 2.5 million bpd of natural gas liquids, while biofuels and volumes gains through refinery processing add another 2 million bpd, he said. Saudi Arabia has around 10 million bpd of crude production and 1.5 million bpd of natural gas liquids, Mr. Sieminski said.

"If the U.S. gets up to 8 million barrels a day of crude oil, and these other numbers stay in the same range... that would make us equal to the current numbers in Saudi Arabia," he said.

However, the kingdom could also boost its own production by ramping up spare capacity or expanding infrastructure, he said.

The International Energy Agency estimates that Saudi Arabia is currently capable of producing up to 11.9 million bpd of crude oil, versus production in December of just over 9 million bpd.

Despite these shifts, "the important thing is the continuing relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia and trying to stabilize global crude oil markets," Mr. Sieminski said.

US crude output was 6.4 million bpd last year and will grow to above 7 million bpd this year, Mr. Sieminski said.

There is also strong potential for the development of shale oil and gas outside North America, he said. "I would say that the potential for the Chinese development of tight gas before 2030 is very strong and the possibility that we will see something happening in at least some of the European countries... is very good," he said.

Dow Jones Newswires

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