With a “gargantuan” increase in oil and natural gas output from the Lower 48, the United States may be only months away from full energy independence, according to new research.

Rystad Energy researchers on Tuesday pegged the domestic energy independence milestone as likely to hit by March, depending on how cold this winter is. Total U.S. oil and gas production in 2030 is expected to outpace primary energy demand in the country by around 30%.

“This milestone follows a strong period of growth in both hydrocarbon and renewable resources, and we forecast that the U.S. will have primary energy surplus -- and not a deficit -- by February or March 2020, depending on the intensity of the winter season,” said Vice President Sindre Knutsson, who is on the gas markets team.

“Going forward, the United States will be energy independent on a monthly basis, and by 2030 total primary energy production will outpace primary energy demand by about 30%,” Knutsson said.

The developments already are in full swing, according to Rystad, which predicted that the U.S. Energy Information Agency should soon report that the country was “self-sufficient in primary energy” for the 12-month period from October 2018 through September.

If that were to occur, it would be “the first time this will have happened since May 1982,” Knutsson said.

The potential development offers broad implications on several fronts, according to researchers.

“In 2018, the United States had a petroleum deficit of $62 billion, which is equivalent to 10% of the country’s overall trade deficit of $621 billion, including goods and services,” Knutsson said. “These changes in the U.S. energy balance could turn its petroleum deficit of $62 billion in 2018 to a surplus of $340 billion by 2030. That adds up to a $400 billion shift, in the space of only a dozen years, thanks primarily to the gargantuan rise of output from the U.S. shale sector.”

Rystad is forecasting total primary energy production will increase to 138 quadrillion Btu in 2030 from 95 quadrillion Btu in 2018.

Crude and gas production should remain the two main contributors to domestic primary energy supply growth in the period, with oil accounting for 75% and gas 38%.

Crude output driven by production in the Permian Basin, as well as the Bakken and Eagle Ford shales, is forecast to grow to 39 quadrillion Btu, or 18.73 million b/d, from 2018’s 21.5 quadrillion Btu (10.32 million b/d).

Gas production growth is forecast to climb on supply from the Marcellus, Haynesville and Utica shales, “but there is also a significant amount of associated gas from the Permian,” which should bring total gas production to 40 quadrillion Btu, or about 1.1 trillion cubic meters (Tcm) in 2030 compared with 29 quadrillion Btu (0.8 Tcm) in 2018.

Primary energy production from renewable sources, including hydropower generation, is forecast to increase to 19 quadrillion Btu (5.57 trillion kWh of electricity) in 2030 from 11.7 quadrillion Btu (3.43 trillion kWh in 2018). 

“This equates to 63% growth, while growth from solar and wind is projected at about 357% and 257%, respectively,” said researchers. “Coal production, however, is forecast to fall 37% in the same period, decreasing from 15.3 quadrillion Btu (809 million tons of coal) in 2018 to 9.6 quadrillion Btu (492 million tons) in 2030.”

On the demand side, Rystad is forecasting a cumulative average growth of about 0.4% from 2018 to 2030, to about 106 quadrillion Btu in 2030.

“The emerging energy surplus will make the U.S. less vulnerable to foreign energy-related politics and facilitate growing exports,” Knutsson said. “While renewable energy output will be consumed domestically, the future for oil and gas exports is bright.”

Rystad’s fossil fuel energy balance showed the United States was a net importer of 1.8 million boe/d in 2018, buoyed by an “especially heavy balance” of imported liquids. 

However, as unconventional oil and gas output has continued to increase, the United States is likely to import fewer barrels of oil and increase liquefied natural gas exports, “making the country a net exporter of 0.6 million boe/d of fossil fuels,” said researchers.

The U.S. fossil fuel surplus is seen increasing to 12 million boe/d by 2030, “thus allowing for an even larger increase in natural gas and liquids exports.” In comparison, the United States had a peak fossil fuel deficit of 14 million boe/d in 2005.

“The growth of the shale industry,” said Knutsson, “will continue to revolutionize the U.S. energy balance and create new opportunities for exports and developments in the country’s total trade balance.”