[1/2] The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, U.S., November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant
HOUSTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) – U.S. oil output climbed to nearly 12 million barrels per day (bpd) in August, government figures showed on Monday, the highest since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as shale companies have said they do not see production accelerating in coming months.
U.S. crude prices have hovered around $85 a barrel after surging into triple-digits this year and boosting fuel costs for consumers. President Joe Biden has called on oil companies to boost production to reduce fuel prices.
Overall U.S. output peaked at 13 million bpd in late 2019, and has not returned to that level since the pandemic started as rigs have been shut in and as costs for equipment and labor increased rapidly.
Several U.S. shale producers recently said well results are disappointing, and production is falling short of forecasts.
"You'll see production tick higher, but I don't think we're going to go ripping higher to 13.1 million barrels," said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York.
A little over two years after the pandemic wrecked havoc on demand and slashed profits, four of the five largest global oil companies brought in roughly $50 billion in net income in the most recent quarter. Most major oil majors and large, listed producers are focused on returning profits to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends.
U.S. upstream oil companies are expected to bank a 68% increase in free cash flow per barrel in 2022, while output growth lingers at 4.5% year to date, Deloitte said last week.
Crude production rose 0.9% to 11.98 million bpd in August, highest since March 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in monthly figures.
Natural gas production in the United States hit another record, with gross output in the lower 48 states rising 0.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) to 110.6 bcfd in August.
That topped the prior all-time high of 110.0 bcfd in July.
In top oil producing states, monthly output rose 1.6% to 5.10 million bpd in Texas and 0.6% to a record 1.58 million bpd in New Mexico, but fell 0.5% to 1.06 million bpd in North Dakota. Texas's output is at a level not seen since April 2020.
In top gas producing states, monthly output rose 0.9% to a record 31.3 bcfd in Texas and fell 1.5% to 20.4 bcfd in Pennsylvania, lowest since November 2020.
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The U.S. Energy Department said on Friday it will begin buying back oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR, the first purchase since this year's record 180 million barrel release from the stockpile.
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