Is “shale oil” the answer to “peak oil”?

Readers have been asking questions about a couple of shale oil articles recently. One is an AP article called New drilling method opens vast oil fields in US. A similar article is a CNBC article titled Massive New US Oil Supply – ‘Peak Oil’ Fears Overblown? Both of these articles talk about the extraction of shale oil in the Bakken and other locations, using horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing.

According to the AP article:

Companies are investing billions of dollars to get at oil deposits scattered across North Dakota, Colorado, Texas and California. By 2015, oil executives and analysts say, the new fields could yield as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day — more than the entire Gulf of Mexico produces now.

This new drilling is expected to raise U.S. production by at least 20 percent over the next five years. And within 10 years, it could help reduce oil imports by more than half, advancing a goal that has long eluded policymakers.

There are several questions that might be asked:

1. Is this really a new drilling technique?

2. How likely is the 2 million barrels a day of new production, and the 20% increase in US production, by 2015?

3. Can this additional oil supply really reduce the US’s imports by over half?

4. How much of a difference will this oil make to “peak oil”?

Let’s take the questions in order.

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