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U.S. Edges Saudi Arabia, Russia in Oil and Gas

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Oil derricks like this one in Williston etch a now-familiar silhouette against the North Dakota sun. Thanks to fracking, the U.S. is on track to be the world’s No. 1 oil and natural gas producer this year. Photo by Lindsey Gira/Flickr Creative Commons license.

The International Energy Agency made headlines nearly one year ago with its bold forecast that the United States was on track to being the world’s top oil and natural gas producer by 2017. (See related, “U.S. to Overtake Saudi Arabia, Russia as World’s Top Energy Producer.”)

It turns out that the United States is fracking its way to the top far faster than the experts anticipated. The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Friday released figures showing that the United States will surpass both Saudi Arabia and Russia in oil and natural gas production this year. The release follows a Wall Street Journal analysis showing that the United States was on track to tap more natural gas than Russia this year for the first time since 1982.

The EIA’s figures chart the U.S. hydrocarbon boom in terms of energy content: Since 2008, U.S. production of oil has increased by 7 billion British thermal units (BTU), while production of natural gas is up 3 billion BTU, adding up to about a 25 percent increase in five years. Russia and Saudi Arabia also have increased their combined hydrocarbon output by about 1 quadrillion BTU over that time, but not enough to keep pace with the United States, particularly the hydraulic fracturing-driven boom in Texas and North Dakota. If the figures hold up, it will be the first time since 2002 that the United States has produced more oil than Saudi Arabia.

Weigh in with your own thoughts on how fracking has changed our energy future at The Big Energy Question.

See related:

Interactive: “Breaking Fuel From Rock