US predicted to be world's largest oil producer by 2017
New forecasts by the International Energy Agency predict the US may achieve energy independence by 2017. America is expected to surpass Russia as the largest gas producer by 2015, and Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer by 2017.
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Birol said he realised how optimistic the IEA forecasts were given that the shale oil boom was a relatively new phenomenon.
"Light, tight oil resources are poorly known ... If no new resources are discovered (after 2020) and plus, if the prices are not as high as today, then we may see Saudi Arabia coming back and being the first producer again," he said.
The IEA said it saw US oil production rising to 10 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2015 and 11.1 million bpd in 2020 before slipping to 9.2 million bpd by 2035.
Saudi Arabian oil output would be 10.9 million bpd by 2015, the IEA said, 10.6 million bpd in 2020 but would rise to 12.3 million bpd by 2035.
That would see the world relying increasingly on OPEC after 2020 as, in addition to increases from Saudi Arabia,Iraq will account for 45 percent of the growth in global oil production to 2035 and become the second-largest exporter, overtaking Russia.
OPEC's share of world oil production will rise to 48 percent from 42 percent now.
Russian oil output, which over the past decade has been steadily above Saudi Arabia, is predicted to stay flat at over 10 million bpd until 2020, when it will start to decline to reach just above 9 million bpd by 2035.
"Russia, which remains the largest individual energy exporter throughout the period, sees its revenues from oil, natural gas and coal exports rise from $380 billion in 2011 to $410 billion in 2035," the IEA said.