Most of us are aware by now that the introduction of widespread hydraulic fracturing into the oil and gas business has resulted in a rapid growth in U.S. production. U.S. crude output is up by nearly 2.5 million barrels a day (b/d) since mid-2007 and natural gas production is up by 25 percent. The key question of course is how long production will continue to grow before it inevitably declines. Optimists maintain that we have just scratched the surface of our shale oil reserves and that production will continue increasing for years, if not decades.
Realists are not so sure, noting that not only is fracked oil very expensive, requiring circa $80 a barrel to cover the costs of extraction, but that production from fracked oil wells drops off quickly so that new wells have to be drilled constantly to maintain production. Until recently information about just how fast our fracked oil wells were depleting was rather hard to come by, so that the hype about the US becoming energy independent and a major oil exporter became conventional wisdom for most.