US set to become world's biggest oil producer
London: A US oil boom is set to push America past Saudi Arabia to become the world's top producer, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.
Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, the US production of crude oil is on track for the biggest single-year gain for more than 60 years.
Analysts claimed that, if the growth in domestic drilling continues, America will soon overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia - and possibly become "the new Middle East" in another decade. The boom has surprised even the experts.
"Five years ago, if I or anyone had predicted today's production growth, people would have thought we were crazy," said Jim Burkhard, head of oil markets research at US energy consulting firm IHS CERA.
Production is expected to rise by seven percent to hit an average of 10.9 million barrels a day this year.
Energy Department officials say it will average 11.4 million next year, just below the current Saudi output of 11.6 million.
This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951, according to the Mail.
But it has not led to cheaper petrol. Prices are expected to stay relatively high for the next few years because of growing demand in developing nations and political instability in the Middle East and North Africa.
Americans currently use around 18.7 million barrels per day - but thanks to the growth in domestic production and the improving fuel efficiency of the nation's cars and trucks, imports could fall by half by the end of the decade, the newspaper said.