US Oil Production Won’t Return Soon to Pre-Pandemic Levels, Energy Secretary Says

US Oil Production Won’t Return Soon to Pre-Pandemic Levels, Energy Secretary Says
Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette testifies at a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy in the Rayburn Building in Washington on July 14, 2020. (Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette says he doesn’t expect U.S. oil production to rebound soon to pre-pandemic levels, as consumer demand remains weak.

U.S. oil output reached around 13 million barrels per day (bpd) in February before the coronavirus pandemic hit fuel demand.

“We simply don’t have the demand for production yet. We are still working through inventories that have built up during this pandemic,” Brouillette told reporters on Oct. 28 in a teleconference that was part of IHS CERAWEEK’s India Energy Forum.

U.S. crude production is currently around 11 million bpd and Brouillette said he expects it to increase slightly next year.

The Energy Information Administration, the independent statistic arm of the Energy Department, said this month that U.S. oil output should reach 11.2 million bpd in the fourth quarter of 2021.

“I don’t see a return to 13 million barrels a day in the very near future,” Brouillette said.

He played down the potential of the European Union to impose emissions standards on imports of liquefied natural gas from the United States and other producers, a prospect that the bloc said was under consideration.

Last week, the French government asked power group Engie to hold off on signing a multibillion-dollar U.S. liquefied natural gas import contract because of concern about the deal’s environmental implications.

The moves heightened concerns about potential European backlash to the Trump administration’s policy of energy dominance, or maximizing oil, gas, and coal production while rolling back environmental regulations.

“I think over time, you will see those things go away,” Brouillette said about the prospect of emissions standards. “Politics ... are going to drive some of those decisions in the short run.”

Until there is a full transition to renewable energy, countries are going to depend on natural gas and nuclear power to provide the base of their electricity generation, he said.