The U.S. set a new annual oil production record on December 15, based on data from the Energy Information Administration. Although the official monthly numbers from the EIA won’t be released for a couple of months, we can calculate that a new record has been set based on the following analysis.
For reference, the previous record was set in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the oil industry. Total U.S. crude oil production in 2019 was 4.49 billion barrels (source), or 12.3 million barrels per day (BPD). Then the pandemic hit, and oil production fell in 2020 and 2021, before rebounding in 2022.
The EIA reports oil production numbers in multiple places. The U.S. Field Production of Crude Oil shows monthly totals and averages, but they are always a couple of months behind. For example, as I write this on December 14, the most recent month posted is September, and U.S. oil production up until then stood at 3.50 billion total barrels.
However, we can also find weekly production numbers in the EIA’s Petroleum Status Report published every Wednesday. A table from that report called U.S. Petroleum Balance Sheet shows the status of U.S. oil production, inventories, imports, etc. for the previous week, as well as the four-week average.
If we look at the November 3 archive of that report, we can see that average weekly production in October was 13.2 million BPD. Thus, during October, the U.S. produced another ~409 million barrels. (Technically, it’s a four-week average that is reported, but that will be within a fraction of a decimal point of monthly production).
Jump forward a month to the December 6 archive, and the preceding four-week average ending December 1 — which will be very close to November monthly production — was 13.175 million BPD. Thus, the U.S. produced another ~395 million barrels in November, to bring the year-to-date total to 4.30 billion barrels.
That means that on December 1, U.S. producers were only 190 million barrels from breaking the previous record. The most recent weekly production number from the EIA — representing the first week of December — was 13.1 million BPD. At that rate, it would take 14.5 days of December production to break the record. If we make a more conservative assumption of 13.0 million BPD, then it only changes the timing to 14.6 days.
Thus, it is a safe assumption that around noon on December 15, the U.S. set a new production record for oil.
It is possible that the EIA could slightly adjust the production numbers once it publishes the final monthly numbers for 2023. That won’t happen until March or April of next year. But at most it would shift the record date by a day or two. It won’t change the fact that a new oil production record was set.
An open question is how high the record will be set. Again, if we assume a more conservative 13.0 million BPD of production for the rest of December — which would be the lowest monthly number since July — then the year would end up at 4.70 billion barrels. That would be nearly 5% above the previous record, or 210 million barrels above that 2019 level.
A new production record fulfills one of the 2023 energy predictions I made in January. For more information, I alluded to the record earlier this week in a TikTok video and discussed it in some detail on the year-end episode of In the Oil Patch Radio.
The U.S. is also on pace to set a new natural gas production record this year. Through September, we are running a little over 4% above last year’s record. However, to my knowledge the EIA does not report weekly natural gas production numbers. Therefore, this record can’t be estimated as precisely as the record for oil.
Assuming September production remains the same for the rest of the year, the natural gas production record would be set around December 20. But there is probably about five days of uncertainty in either direction due to the variability in monthly gas production. We won’t know the timing for certain until the EIA releases the monthly numbers for natural gas next year, but it is near certain that we will set a new record for natural gas as well.