Weather Forecast


When it comes to oil and gas, the US is poised to pass Russia

An oil well pumps on a pad east of Williston on June 6 as a rig roughly a half-mile to its west drills a new well.

The U.S. is poised to pass Russia as the world's top oil and gas producer, according to a new report, and North Dakota's congressional delegation said they believe it is largely due to the state's Bakken energy play.

Citing U.S. Energy Information Administration and International Energy Agency numbers, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that the U.S. is poised to overtake its former Cold War rival in the production of oil and natural gas sometime later this year.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., on Wednesday joined Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., in citing North Dakota's booming Bakken shale play -- which also spills over into Montana and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan -- as a key contributing factor.

"The Bakken is certainly a big part of making that happen," Hoeven said. "We may have already passed them. Saudi Arabia is still the biggest producer if you look at just oil, but America is now the leader when you combine oil and gas. North Dakota, of course, is a huge part of that in respect to oil and gas."

Neither the EIA or IEA have current oil and gas output numbers out of Russia for 2013, but the forecast for this year out of Moscow was roughly 21.8 million barrels of oil and gas per day, according to a Wall Street Journal story published Oct. 2.

Figures released by the EIA showed that the U.S. produced the equivalent of close to 22 million barrels per day of oil, natural gas and other fuels in July.

"North Dakota is paving the way while using a true all-of-the-above energy approach," Heitkamp stated in a release. "North Dakota is on the front lines of developing and harnessing our natural resources and, following our lead, the country can do this at the national level and achieve North American energy independence."

In July, North Dakota produced about 875,000 barrels of oil per day, according to numbers from the state's Department of Mineral Resources, which means that close to 5 percent of the oil produced daily in the U.S. comes from the Peace Garden State.

Russia is lagging behind the U.S. when it comes to the use recovery-aiding technologies like hydraulic fracturing, which has been used in recent years to help skyrocket domestic production of oil and natural gas.

"Congratulations to the Bakken," Cramer said. "The fact that we probably have already overtaken Russia is the obvious, but it also shows the potential that is there for us, not only in North Dakota, but in shale plays and possible shale plays in other states like California and New York. There are also vast resources under federal lands and offshore. I like to say around Washington that, on behalf of the U.S. becoming more energy secure, the citizens of North Dakota say 'you're welcome.'"

Referring to figures released by the non-profit Institute for Energy Research, Cramer said that current estimates of untapped domestic reserves of oil and gas put the unrecovered minerals' value at about $120 trillion.

Though industry analysts seem to agree that Russia also has a treasure trove of untapped shale resources, the U.S. has surged past its old nemesis in a new type of arms race, largely because of the booming Bakken and Texas-based Eagle Ford shale plays.

"The U.S. can now become the price leader, rather than the price follower," Cramer said. "For years, when we were dependent on OPEC, they were setting the price. Now, the market sets the price because we have so much supply. The other really encouraging thing is that, especially in regard to natural gas, we have the opportunity to be the world's supplier and our trade deficit can come down. Beyond just Cold War pride, this has a lot of different ramifications."

In the midst of an unpopular government shutdown in Washington, largely due to a budget standoff between Republicans and Democrats, Hoeven said continued robust energy output in America could also help solve some of the nation's financial troubles.

"A lot of the problems we have now in our country are because of our economy," Hoeven said. "In North Dakota, we've had great economic growth. But we're not seeing that nationally. I believe a lot of that can be changed if we move to a states-first energy policy so other areas of the U.S. can benefit like we've benefited in North Dakota."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
(701) 456-1207