January 2020

Executive viewpoint

Significance of shale’s first decade cannot be overstated
Jeff Eshelman / Independent Petroleum Association of America

The incredible transformation in the world energy landscape during recent years has been, in no small part, brought about by the U.S. shale revolution. The abundant oil and natural gas unlocked by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has enabled the U.S. to become “the undisputed leader of oil and gas production worldwide” (IEA), and the past decade’s momentum is predicted to continue.

As we kick off 2020, and shale’s next decade, let’s take a look at the major milestones of the past 10 years.

U.S. production and proved reserves skyrocket. The U.S. has come a long way since the energy crisis of the 1970s and claims in the early 2000s (Time magazine) that we would run out of natural gas.

  • From 2008 to 2018, U.S. oil production (BP Statistical Review) increased 125%, enabling America to surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top producer. The U.S. produced 16% of global oil supply, double the share in 2008, and likely broke that record again in 2019 (EIA). Texas and New Mexico’s Permian basin is now the highest-producing oil field (EIA).
  • U.S. natural gas production (BP) surpassed Russia’s in 2012 and, in 2018, America produced 30.6 Tcf, or nearly 16 Bcfd more than Russia. Last year, the U.S. recorded the largest annual growth in gas production of any country in history (BP). The Appalachian basin in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia would be the third-largest global producer, if it were a country.
  • Proved reserves hit an all-time high (EIA) this decade. Shale grew from 13.5% of total U.S. proved reserves in 2008 to roughly two-thirds in 2017. Proved oil reserves increased 115% since 2008, while gas reserves grew about 60%. Further, recoverable natural gas is estimated at its highest level ever recorded (AGA), at 3,374 Tcf.

U.S. exports help stabilize global markets. Significant production increases have enabled the U.S. to go from a large energy importer to a global supplier.

  • The U.S. exported more petroleum products than it imported in September 2019 (EIA)–for the first time ever. Shale output allowed the U.S. to lift the 40-year crude oil export ban at the end of 2015 and participate in the global market. Not only has America met much of its demand and kept imports at record-lows, but abundant shale oil also has helped stabilize global markets by forcing OPEC nations to cut production, to keep prices profitable. The U.S. has even periodically overtaken Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil exporter.
  • The U.S. became the third-largest LNG exporter (IEA) since its first shipment from the Lower 48 in February 2016. LNG exports more than quintupled from 2016 to 2018, to a record of nearly 3.6 Tcf. The IEA predicts that by 2024, U.S. LNG exports will reach nearly 4 Tcf, as more export facilities come online, overtaking Qatar and Australia as the largest LNG supplier.

As IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol recently said, “The second wave of the U.S. shale revolution is coming.…This will shake up international oil and gas trade flows, with profound implications for the geopolitics of energy.”

U.S. gas drives emissions reductions. Alongside this increased production, the U.S. has seen record emissions reductions. As Birol said in early 2019, “In the last 10 years, the emissions reductions in the United States have been the largest in the history of energy.”

  • Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 (IEA/EPA/EIA) reached their lowest levels since 1992. And methane emissions have declined 14% since 1990.
  • Using more gas for U.S. power generation has reduced CO2 emissions by more than 2.8 million metric tons since 2005 (IEA) – 57% more savings than renewables.

IEA estimates that the global shift to gas, including U.S. supplies, could prevent 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions.

Shale benefits the economy. Not only have oil and gas driven 10% of U.S. GDP growth from 2010 to 2015, and paid workers the highest median salary (Wall Street Journal) of any industry, they’re also impacting consumers profoundly.

  • Shale saves money. Shale saved gas consumers $1.1 trillion (Shale Crescent USA) from 2008 to 2018 and is saving electricity consumers $203 billion ($2,500 per family) annually (the White House). Further, lower heating costs prevented 11,000 deaths (National Bureau of Economic Research) in winter months annually.
  • Low gas prices are driving a U.S. manufacturing resurgence. In 2016, the London School of Economics concluded that for every two jobs directly created by fracing, at least one more is created in manufacturing. Abundant feedstock and affordable prices spurred more than $200 billion in chemical and plastics industry investments since 2010 (American Chemistry Council). 

This list barely scratches the surface of what the U.S. oil and gas industry has accomplished since the shale revolution began. Looking to the future, we’re excited to see that growth continue and the industry improve upon the technologies that help make our world a safer, cleaner place for future generations.

About the Authors
Jeff Eshelman
Independent Petroleum Association of America
Jeff Eshelman was officially named IPAA President & CEO on Sept. 1, 2022. Previously, he served as COO, overseeing the public affairs and communications, administration, membership, IT and finance departments. In 2009, he founded Energy in Depth, the industry’s rapid response, research and communications coalition.
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