By Ornella Kaze
This article was published by the US Energy Information Administration on Jan. 21, 2022.
After declining in 2020, the combined production of US fossil fuels (including natural gas, crude oil, and coal) increased by 2 per cent in 2021 to 77.14 quadrillion British thermal units. Based on forecasts in our latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), we expect US fossil fuel production to continue rising in both 2022 and 2023, surpassing production in 2019, to reach a new record in 2023.
Of the total US fossil fuel production in 2021, dry natural gas accounted for 46 per cent, the largest share. Crude oil accounted for 30 per cent, coal for 15 per cent, and natural gas plant liquids (NGPLs) for 9 per cent. We expect those shares to remain similar through 2023.
US dry natural gas production increased by 2 per cent in 2021, based on monthly data through October and estimates for November and December. In our forecast, improvements in drilling efficiency and new-well production will contribute to production increases of 3 per cent in 2022 and 2 per cent in 2023.
US crude oil production dropped slightly, by an estimated 1 per cent, in 2021, but we expect it to increase by 6 per cent in 2022 and 5 per cent in 2023. We forecast that, in 2022 and 2023, crude oil prices will remain high enough to encourage growth in the number of active drilling rigs and continued improvement in drilling efficiency.
US coal production increased by an estimated 7 per cent in 2021, driven by increased demand for coal because of rising natural gas prices. Coal’s comparatively lower prices made coal more economical for use in electric power generation compared with natural gas. In 2020, US coal production had fallen to its lowest level since 1964. We forecast that coal production will increase 6 per cent in 2022 as coal-fired electricity generators rebuild inventory levels. However, we forecast that coal production will only increase by 1 per cent in 2023 as demand for coal in the electric power sector declines.
US NGPL production increased by 4 per cent in 2021. We expect US NGPL production to increase by 9 per cent in 2022 and then by 4 per cent in 2023. Because NGPLs are a co-product of natural gas, our forecast for rising NGPL production is linked to our forecast for rising natural gas production.
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