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America can double its oil production, says fracking pioneer Harold Hamm

America can double its oil production, says fracking pioneer Harold Hamm

By Tom DiChristopher 07 December, 2016

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.


Last modified on Tuesday, 07 March 2017 08:39
Tom DiChristopher

Tom DiChristopher is an award-winning multimedia journalist who covers energy for He previously coordinated online coverage of broadcast guests for a number of CNBC's Business Day programs. 

DiChristopher joined at the outset of the 2014 crude price downturn and has since reported on the fallout in the U.S. oil patch and abroad. He co-developed's "Crude Realities" series to take an in-depth, data-driven approach to chronicling the upheaval in oil markets. He has also produced breaking news and packaged reports on the network's news desk.

Prior to CNBC, he worked as a commercial real estate reporter and digital producer for The Real Deal.

Christopher holds a B.A. in English from SUNY Albany and an M.A. from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. While there, he was a producer for CUNY TV's news magazine show 219West and a founding producer of the AudioFiles podcast. His work for AudioFiles earned two Mark of Excellence awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Prior to studying at CUNY, DiChristopher reported on economic development and contemporary culture in Vietnam as managing editor of AsiaLIFE magazine in Ho Chi Minh City. 

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