(Reuters) – U.S. crude oil production last week hit 11 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time in the nation’s history, the Energy Department said on Wednesday, as the ongoing boom in shale production continues to drive output.
The gains represent a rapid increase in output, as the data, if confirmed by monthly figures, puts the United States just behind Russia as the world’s largest producer of crude oil. The nation has added nearly 1 million bpd in production since November, thanks to rapid increases in shale drilling.
“I don’t think production is plateauing at 11. It’s fully expected to grow beyond 11 – we won’t be topping out there,” said Scott Shelton, a broker at ICAP in Durham, North Carolina.
Crude inventories increased 5.8 million barrels in the week to July 13, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 3.6 million barrels.
Crude futures edged down on the data. U.S. crude was down 55 cents to $67.51 a barrel, while Brent dropped 39 cents to $71.77 a barrel. The benchmarks have gained steadily since bottoming out below $30 a barrel in early 2016; U.S. crude is up nearly 12 percent this year.
Weekly production figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration are notorious for revisions, however, as monthly data, released on a lag, shows U.S. production at 10.5 million bpd as of April.
In the last several weeks, the EIA has rounded off U.S. production to the nearest hundred thousand barrels, so that figure had been stuck at 10.9 million bpd for more than a month.
Russia’s oil production rose to 11.2 million bpd as of early July, sources familiar told Reuters.
Even as the United States has swiftly ramped up output in the last two years, the country still depends heavily on imports, as it remains the world’s largest oil consumer, with consumption of nearly 20 million bpd.
Net U.S. crude imports rose last week by 2.2 million bpd to about 9 million bpd.
Gasoline stocks fell by 3.2 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a drop of 44,000 barrels.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 371,000 barrels, versus expectations for a 873,000-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.