22 September 2015, Post Carbon Institute, A long-term abundance of oil & natural gas, but what if the boom is just a bubble? Tight oil reality check. Much of the cost-benefit debate over fracking has come down to the perception of just how much domestic oil and gas it can produce and at what cost. To answer this question, policymakers, the media, and the general public have typically turned to the U.S. Department of Energy’sEnergy Information Administration (EIA), which every year publishes its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO). In Drilling Deeper, PCI Fellow David Hughes took a hard look at the EIA’s AEO2014 and found that its projections for future production and prices suffered from a worrisome level of optimism. Recently, the EIA released its Annual Energy Outlook 2015 and so we asked David Hughes to see how the EIA’s projections and assumptions have changed over the last year, and to assess the AEO2015 against both Drilling Deeper and up-to-date production data from key shale gas and tight oil plays. In July 2015, Post Carbon Institute published Shale Gas Reality Check, which found that in 2015 the EIA is more optimistic than ever about the prospects for shale gas, despite substantive reasons for caution. This month we turn our eyes to the EIA’s latest projections for tight oil. KEY CONCLUSIONS:
- The EIA’s 2015 Annual Energy Outlook is even more optimistic about tight oil than the AEO2014, which we showed in Drilling Deeper suffered from a great deal of questionable optimism. The AEO2015 reference case projection of total tight oil production through 2040 has increased by 6.5 billion barrels, or 15%, compared to AEO2014.
- The EIA assumes West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil prices will remain low and not exceed $100/barrel until 2031.
- At the same time, the EIA assumes that overall U.S. oil production will experience a very gradual decline following a peak in 2020.
- These assumptions—low prices, continued growth through this decade, and a gradual decline in production thereafter—are belied by the geological and economic realities of shale plays. The recent drop in oil prices has already hit tight oil production growth hard. The steep decline rates of wells and the fact that the best wells are typically drilled off first means that it will become increasingly difficult for these production forecasts to be met, especially at relatively low prices.
- – Perhaps the most striking change from AEO2014 to AEO2015 is the EIA’s optimism about the Bakken, the projected recovery of which was raised by a whopping 85%. Read More here