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June 4, 2015

Increases in U.S. crude oil production are predominantly light, sweet crude

graph of U.S. crude oil production by type, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Crude Oil Production to 2025: Updated Projection of Crude Types

U.S. crude oil production has grown rapidly in recent years, primarily from light, sweet crude (less dense, lower sulfur content) from tight resource formations. Roughly 90% of the nearly 3.0 million barrel per day (b/d) growth in production from 2011 to 2014 consisted of light, sweet grades, meaning they have an API gravity of 40 or above and a sulphur content of 0.3% or less.

EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015) projects that U.S. supply of lighter API gravity crude oil from formations in regions such as the Bakken, Permian Basin, and Eagle Ford continues to outpace that of medium and heavier crudes. Although the rate of growth in light sweet crude slows after 2015 in the Reference case, 56% of EIA's projected production growth between 2014 and 2020 consists of sweet grades with an API gravity of 40 or above. Another 33% of the growth is attributable to an increase in Lower 48 states offshore production, which is categorized as medium sour with an API gravity between 27 and 35.

The pace and duration of projected crude oil production increases are uncertain, and these factors are dependent on crude oil prices and the quality and amount of technically recoverable resources. In the AEO2015 High Oil and Gas Resource and High Oil Price cases, the rate of growth in tight oil production is higher than in the Reference case, as light, sweet crudes make up an even greater portion of domestic crude oil resources.

EIA's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, issued in May, reflects continued production growth in 2015 and 2016—although at a slower pace than in 2013 and 2014—with U.S. crude oil production in 2016 forecast to reach 9.2 million b/d.

More information on projected crude oil production by quality is available in EIA's recently released report, U.S. Crude Oil Production to 2025: Updated Projection of Crude Types. In conjunction with other reports issued by EIA over the past year, this report provides a foundation for further analysis of the market outlook and the effects of a possible relaxation of existing restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports.

Principal contributor: Dana Van Wagener