The Permian Basin in West Texas is on track to produce more oil within five years than any OPEC nation except Saudi Arabia, positioning the Texas Gulf Coast to rival the Persian Gulf when it comes to oil and gas activity.
Crude volumes from the Permian will more than double by 2023, making the region the world’s third-largest producer after Russia and Saudi Arabia, according to the research and consulting firm IHS Markit. Most of that oil is headed to refineries and ports near Houston and Corpus Christi, as U.S. crude exports are expected to surge to nearly 5 million barrels a day by 2023, up from more than 2 million today.
“In the past 24 months, production from just this one region — the Permian — has grown far more than any other entire country in world,” said Daniel Yergin, IHS Markit vice chairman.
The comeback of the Permian, which today accounts for more than half the nation’s active oil drilling rigs, is among the the most remarkable stories in the industry’s history. At the beginning of the decade, the aging oil field was struggling with declining production. But advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling pioneered by Houston companies such as EOG Resources, have tapped massive reserves of previously inaccessible oil and gas.
By 2023, the shortage of pipelines to move oil, gas and natural gas liquids to Gulf Coast markets and beyond is expected to be alleviated by multibillion-dollar projects now underway or planned. Oil, petrochemical and liquefied natural gas companies are investing billions of dollars to process and export petroleum from the Permian and other shale plays, which, according to the International Energy Agency, has made the Gulf Coast a global trading center as vital to world’s energy needs as the Straits of Hormuz, through which tankers filled with Middle Eastern crude travel to the world’s markets.
Near Corpus Christi, for example, the Houston exploration and production company Occidental Petroleum, is continuing to expand its crude export terminal at Ingleside. In 2017, Texas accounted for three-fourths of U.S. crude exports, which recently hit a weekly record in May of 2.6 million barrels a day.
IHS Markit estimates that $308 billion in new spending is required to drill more than 40,000 new wells in the Permian needed to meet its projections. That’s more than double the $150 billion invested there from 2012 to 2017. The report also assumes that oil prices will continue to average at least $60 a barrel.
Oil settled in New York Thursday at $66.89 per barrel.