US oil production from tight formations increased in 2019, accounting for 64% of total US crude oil production, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). This share grew because of the increasing productivity of new wells that were brought online during 2019.
First month oil production per new well in select DPR regions. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Drilling Productivity Report (DPR)
Since 2007, the average first full month of oil production from new wells in regions tracked by the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) has increased. The growing initial production rates have helped oil production from tight formations to increase despite the slowdowns in drilling activity when oil prices fell between 2015 and 2016.
The average new well in each DPR region produced more oil in 2019 than wells drilled in previous years in those same regions. This trend has persisted for more than 10 consecutive years. More effective drilling techniques, including the increasing prevalence of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, have helped to increase these initial production rates. In particular, well productivity was improved because of the injection of more proppant during the hydraulic fracturing process and the ability to drill longer horizontal components (also known as laterals) and perforate more stages.
Increasing well productivity has supported crude oil production even in years such as 2015, when oil prices fell and rig counts dropped. In 2016, rig counts continued to decline sharply, and total U.S. crude oil production decreased for the first time in 10 years. Fewer wells were drilled; however, those that were drilled were drilled more quickly and located in more productive areas, which led to increasing per-well production.