U.S. fossil fuels production is expected to rise to record levels in 2018 and 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Production is projected to average nearly 73 quadrillion British thermal units in 2018 and 75 quadrillion British thermal units in 2019.
“Fossil fuels include dry natural gas, crude oil, coal and hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL),” according to the EIA. “Although EIA tends to express fossil fuel production in physical units, such as cubic feet for natural gas, barrels for oil and tons for coal, expressing production in heat content allows for comparisons across fuel types.”
Production levels are expected to reach record levels because production is expected to increase for natural gas and crude oil as a result of the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques in tight rock formations. The rise in the production of natural gas is expected to be the leading contributor to the rise in production of fossil fuels in 2018, and the increase in production of crude oil is expected to be the top contributor to the increase in 2019. The rise in production of natural gas, crude oil and HGL will more than offset the projected decline in coal production over the next two years.
By heat content, dry natural gas accounted for 41% of fossil fuel production in 2017. Crude oil accounted for 29%, coal for 23% and HGL for 7%. In 2011, natural gas surpassed coal as the leading source of U.S. fossil fuel production. In 2015, crude oil surpassed coal to be the second leading source of fossil fuel production.
In 2018, dry natural gas production is expected to rise 9% to 80.4 billion cubic feet per day, from 2017. This would be the highest production level on record, surpassing the previous record of 74.2 billion cubic feet per day in 2015. In 2019, dry natural gas production is projected to rise to 83 billion cubic feet per day. Growth is expected to be concentrated in the Appalachia’s Marcellus and Utica shales along with the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico.
In 2018, crude oil production is expected to rise 10% to 10.3 million barrels per day, from 2017. It also would be the highest production level on record, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million barrels per day in 1970. In 2019, crude oil production is expected to be 10.8 million barrels per day. Increased production in the Permian region in Texas and New Mexico are expected to account for the majority of the rise. Also, seven oil-producing projects in the Federal Gulf of Mexico are to come online by the end of 2019, contributing to the increase.
Coal production is expected to fall 2% to 759 million short tons in 2018, from 2017. Production is set to decline another 2% to 741 million short tons in 2019. Declines in the Appalachia and Western producing regions will be offset by production increases in the Interior region. Meanwhile, coal consumption is projected to decline over the next two years as low natural gas prices are expected to reduce demand for coal used to produce electricity. Nearly 90% of domestic coal consumption is attributed to the electric power sector. U.S. coal exports are expected to fall in 2018 and 2019 after an increase in 2017.
A rise in crude oil production, especially in the Permian Basin, is expected to lead to increased natural gas production and an increase in HGL production at natural gas processing plants. In 2018, HGL production is expected to be 4.2 million barrels per day and rise to 4.6 million barrels per day in 2019.