50 states in five facts: what you need to know about the 2015 US energy landscape

Last edited: 9 June 2016

As BP publishes the 65th edition of its Statistical Review of World Energy, take a closer look at what the data reveals about the United States. Did the US remain the world’s top oil producer in 2015? And, how is growing natural gas and renewable energy consumption shaping the evolving US energy mix?

Drawing from the latest Statistical Review, Mark Finley, BP’s general manager of global energy markets and US economics, explains five key facts driving energy supply and demand in America.

1. The US kept its edge as the world’s largest producer of oil, natural gas, renewables and nuclear power in 2015.

“The US has a long track record of being a place where big things can happen, whether it’s the early adoption of nuclear power and renewable energy, or the development of shale innovation at scale. What makes the US such a strong player in energy production is the fact that it’s more than a huge economy and a big user of energy — it’s also a place that can attract investment and foster innovation.

The other part of this story, as it relates to oil and gas production, has been driven by the shale phenomenon in recent years. The US had the world's biggest annual growth in oil production in 2015, even though output has been declining on a monthly basis since the middle of last year (due to the collapse of investment following falling oil prices). Meanwhile, the growth in US natural gas production accounted for more than half of the growth in the world’s production of natural gas last year.”

2. The US is the world’s largest consumer of natural gas, with 2015 growth driven by low prices.

“Not only was the US the largest consumer of natural gas last year, but it also had the biggest growth in natural gas consumption in the world. This was due to declining US prices, with the Henry Hub benchmark price falling to the lowest level since 1999. As a result, natural gas has become very competitive, gaining significant market share from coal in power generation. In fact, it almost caught up to coal as the leading source of power generation in the US last year.

As natural gas displaced coal in market share, the US had the biggest decline in the consumption of coal of any country in 2015 (-12.7%). As a result, overall US emissions of carbon dioxide from energy consumption declined by 2.6%, even with growing consumption of oil and natural gas. This was the largest volumetric decline of carbon emissions of any country in the world last year, putting US carbon dioxide emissions from energy use 11% below their 2007 peak.”

3. The US saw the largest increase in domestic oil production of any country

“US oil production has grown every year since 2009 — increasing a total of 87% since 2008. That is a huge increase, though it’s important to recognize that what happened in 2015 was really a momentum story. 

US oil production has been declining on a monthly basis since the middle of last year, and it continues to decline so far in 2016. However, the fact that it had been growing so rapidly before meant that the annual average still had the largest increase in the world last year. As expected in the face of collapsing oil prices and a sharp decline in the domestic rig count, US production is now showing the impact of that, though the impact of falling investment has been partly offset by cost-cutting and continued productivity gains.
US production has been an important part of the global oil market’s adjustment process — both on the way up and on the way down. The market has been significantly oversupplied for several years, and prices have dropped as a result. The slowdown in US production, along with rising demand for oil in the US and around the world, is setting the stage for the market to rebalance, most likely later this year.”

4. Domestic energy production was sufficient to meet 91% of domestic consumption — the highest ratio since 1982

“To put this in perspective, energy self-sufficiency does not mean that the US doesn’t need to worry about energy security or supply disruptions in other parts of the world. It is still part of a global marketplace. It also doesn’t mean that the US is independent when it comes to energy. For example, it is still the second biggest net importer of oil in the world, after China. 

But improving energy self-sufficiency does create domestic jobs. It reduces America’s trade deficit. It provides a base of technology leadership that can be exported. It broadens the tax base for state, local and the federal government by growing the domestic economy and expanding jobs. All of these things are broader benefits that accrue over time. And in terms of what we’re seeing in the rapid growth of natural gas and renewables displacing coal, it also has implications for the domestic trajectory of carbon dioxide emissions.”

5. US primary energy consumption declined for the first time since 2012, dropping by 0.9%.

“In terms of consumption, the US had continued growth in renewables, it had the world’s strongest increment of growth of natural gas, and it had above-average growth of oil demand. The overall weakness of US primary energy consumption is largely a coal story. In fact, US consumption of coal fell by 12.7% last year. 

The fact that US primary energy consumption declined even as the economy continued to grow was noteworthy. This seems say something about US energy intensity, or the amount of energy required per unit of gross domestic product. In fact, energy intensity declined by 3.2% in 2015, which is faster than the 10-year average improvement of -1.7%.”

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