U.S. drillers have the ability to double the country's oil production to 20 million barrels a day, but doing so too soon would tank oil prices, Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm said Thursday.
Hamm, who made his fortune by pioneering new drilling methods in North Dakota's Bakken Formation, did not offer a timeline for when this would be possible, but it would certainly be a difficult task. Surging U.S. production since 2008 was largely responsible for creating a global oversupply of oil that sent prices spiraling from more than $100 a barrel to $26 this past winter.
The billionaire oilman and energy advisor to President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged the difficulty of such a renewed boom in oil production.
"We could take it from 10 [million barrels a day] to 20 [million]. The key here is not to get too much production coming back in — oversupply the market — or prices collapse and that's not a good deal for everybody," Hamm told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
"We have that potential in this country. That's what's available here. It needs to be done in a very systematic way," he said.
Pumping through the pain
Crude oil production (barrels per day). The big three OPEC producers have raised output throughout the downturn while higher-cost U.S. production has fallen and Russia's output has ticked up
U.S. crude oil production hit a multidecade peak of 9.6 million barrels a day in April 2015, roughly doubling from 2008 levels near 5 million barrels a day. That output has since slid back to about 8.6 million barrels a day as U.S. drillers defer new projects amid the price slump.
On Wednesday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia agreed to limit production to boost prices. Many analysts say they must be careful not to let oil prices rise and stay above $55 a barrel, or else producers of high-cost U.S. crude could increase their output and upset the quest to balance the market.