New York – The US shale oil boom has put refineries in Europe out of business and undercut crude suppliers in west Africa. Now drillers in the US threaten to roil Asian markets and challenge producers in the Middle East and South America.
Fifteen European refineries have closed in the past five years, with a 16th due to shut this year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), as the US went from depending on fuel from Europe to being a major exporter to the region.
Nigeria, which used to send the equivalent of a dozen supertankers of crude a month to the US, now ships fewer than three, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
And cheap oil from the Rocky Mountains, where output has grown 31 percent since 2011, will soon allow West Coast companies to cut back on imports of pricier grades from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela that they process for customers in Asia.
“I don’t really think anyone saw this coming,” Facts Global Energy analyst Steve Sawyer said.
“The US shale boom happened much faster than people thought. We’re in the middle of a new game.”
Advances in extracting oil from shale rock have driven US output up by 39 percent since 2011, the biggest rise in history, according to the EIA.
While drilling in shale is costlier than other methods and poses environmental risks, the prospect of a growing supply is encouraging analysts to predict a more energy-independent nation.
With US exports of petrol and other refined products hitting a record last month and the country on pace to become the largest oil producer by 2015, five years faster than the IEA’s earlier forecasts, industry advocates such as Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski are calling for an end to 39-year-old limits on US crude exports
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