U.S. Catching Up to Russia as the World’s Top Energy Producer: Here’s Why

Photo taken August 19, 2013 shows natural gas burning off at an oil well site near Tioga, North Dakota.
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Alex Brown
Oct. 3, 2013, 7:08 a.m.

The United States is close to leapfrog­ging Rus­sia as the world’s No. 1 en­ergy pro­du­cer, The Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted Wed­nes­day. How did it ar­rive at that ana­lys­is, and how did Amer­ica catch up? Here’s an ex­plain­er:

  • Us­ing fig­ures from the In­ter­na­tion­al En­ergy Agency, WSJ tal­lied fuel pro­duc­tion and weighted it by en­ergy out­put in Brit­ish thermal units — for ex­ample, a cu­bic foot of nat­ur­al gas con­tains 1,028 Btus, while a bar­rel of oil comes in at 5.8 mil­lion.
  • Taken to­geth­er, U.S. fuel pro­duc­tion in Ju­ly was the equi­val­ent of 22 mil­lion bar­rels of oil per day, more than a mil­lion bar­rels above last year’s rate. Rus­sia topped that by close to a mil­lion bar­rels, but re­cent gains show the U.S. is close to catch­ing up.
  • A big part of the U.S.’s rise is nat­ur­al gas; last year Amer­ica topped Rus­sia as the glob­al pro­duc­tion lead­er.
  • Ho­ri­zont­al drilling and frac­tur­ing to ex­tract oil — tech­niques used little out­side of the United States — have also con­trib­uted to the en­ergy surge, open­ing new crude sup­plies.
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