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Production jump may make US world’s top oil producer

NEW YORK — US oil output is surging so fast that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest producer.

Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, US production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7 percent this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.

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The Energy Department forecasts that US production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons, which includes biofuels, will average 11.4 million barrels per day next year. That would be a record for the United States and just below Saudi Arabia’s output of 11.6 million barrels. Citibank forecasts US production could reach 13 million to 15 million barrels per day by 2020.

The last year the United States was the world’s largest producer was 2002, after the Saudis drastically cut production because of low oil prices in the aftermath of 9/11.

The major factor driving domestic production higher is a newfound ability to squeeze oil out of rock once thought too difficult and expensive to tap. Drillers have learned to drill horizontally into long, thin seams of shale and other rock that holds oil, instead of searching for rare underground pools of hydrocarbons that have accumulated over millions of years.

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