EIA: Shale Oil Production Tripled from 2008 to 2010

Drilling on the Bakken shale in North Dakota. (image: dgolterman via flickr.com)

There’s oil in them thar shales.

After more than two decades of steady declines, U.S. oil production rose the last two years, led by deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and horizontal fracking, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported this week. The daily oil output rose about 100,000 barrels between 2009 and 2010, with new supplies flowing from the country’s shale formations — which are tapped with the same technology that has opened up new reservoirs of gas.

Since 1986, the country’s oil production was on a long, slow slide, falling about 40 percent through 2008. That year, the average daily haul slipped below 5 million barrels, which the EIA blamed on the one-two punch of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. But Gulf drilling prompted a rebound in 2009, and horizontal fracking kept the numbers up in 2010.

In 2010, five shale formations averaged about 275,00 barrels a day, slightly more than three times what they were producing in 2008. The Bakken shale in North Dakota has proved to be the oiliest, accounting for the large majority of the shale oil. (And the oil boom has been a bonanza for the state, which has the lowest unemployment rate in the country.) But the Eagle Ford shale in Texas and Marcellus shale in Appalachia have both seen their output multiply in the late aughts.

Shale formations now provide 5-percent of the country’s oil production. And according to one estimate, horizontal fracking has opened up new oil plays that could boost domestic production as much as 2 million barrels a day.

To read the EIA report click here.