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Report: Is Permian Tight Oil Growth Sustainable?

Lone Star Oil (Foreign Bodies) by Durant Weston, CC-by-2.0

A new study suggests oil production in the Permian Basin could peak as early as 2021 due to geological constraints. This was the downside scenario gamed out by researchers with industry intelligence company Wood Mackenzie.

“We’re going to drill really really hard for the next 3 or 4 years, we’re going to exhaust a lot of parent locations, we’re going to keep drilling but we’re going to be drilling into pressure-depleted areas,” researcher Robert Clarke said in a Wood Mackenzie podcast.

Clarke said in this downside scenario, there will still be a lot of drilling, just of smaller "child" wells.

“Taking that downside scenario case forward, even in 2030 the Permian is still producing just shy of 30 million barrels a day. So this isn’t a story of it peaks and it’s finished,” said Clarke.

Another scenario considered in the report looks at how advances in technology could actually lead to widespread, more efficient fracking. This upside scenario saw production peak at 5.6 million barrels a day in 2025.