The U.S. is on pace to leapfrog both Saudi Arabia and Russia and reclaim the title of the world’s biggest oil producer for the first time since the 1970s.
The latest forecast from the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that U.S. output will grow next year to 11.8 million barrels a day.
“If the forecast holds, that would make the U.S. the world’s leading producer of crude,” says Linda Capuano, who heads the agency, a part of the Energy Department.
Saudi Arabia and Russia could upend that forecast by boosting their own production. In the face of rising global oil prices, members of the OPEC cartel and a few non-members including Russia agreed last month to ease production caps that had contributed to the run-up in prices.
The United States led the world in oil production for much of the 20th century, but the Soviet Union surpassed America in 1974, and Saudi Arabia did the same in 1976, according to Energy Department figures.
The last decade or so has seen a revolution in American energy production, however, led by techniques including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling.
Those innovations — and the breakup of the Soviet Union — helped the U.S. narrow the gap, although Russia and Saudi Arabia both pumped more crude than the U.S. last year.
Capuano’s agency forecast that U.S. crude output will average 10.8 million barrels a day for all of 2018 and 11.8 million barrels a day in 2019, up from 9.4 million in 2017.
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