EIA: U.S. surpasses Russia, Saudi Arabia as top oil producer

By Patrick C. Miller | September 13, 2018

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Wednesday that the U.S. has likely passed both Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer based on the agency’s preliminary estimates.

According to EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), U.S. crude production in February exceeded Saudi Arabia’s for the first time in more than two decades. In June and August, the U.S. surpassed Russia in oil production for the first time since February 1999.

Although EIA said it doesn’t publish crude oil production forecasts for Russia and Saudi Arabia in STEO, it expects that U.S. crude oil production will continue to exceed Russian and Saudi Arabian crude oil production for the remainder of 2018 and through 2019.

U.S. crude oil production, particularly from light sweet crude oil grades, has rapidly increased since 2011. Much of the recent growth has occurred in areas such as the Permian region in western Texas and eastern New Mexico, the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico, and the Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana.

“This is something we’ve been anticipating for a few months and we are very proud that our industry in North Dakota has contributed to this production achievement,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. “Our industry gets more efficient and cost effective every day as we continue to increase production from Bakken shale. Thanks to constantly improving resources and technology we expect to set another all-time production record this month in North Dakota.”

The oil price decline in mid-2014 resulted in U.S. producers reducing their costs and temporarily scaling back crude oil production. However, after crude oil prices increased in early 2016, investment and production began increasing later that year. By comparison, Russia and Saudi Arabia have maintained relatively steady crude oil production growth in recent years.

Saudi Arabia's crude and other liquids production data are EIA internal estimates. Russian data mainly come from the Russian Ministry of Oil, which publishes crude oil and condensate numbers. Other sources used to inform these estimates include data from major producing companies, international organizations (such as the International Energy Agency), and industry publications, among others.