The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that by 2017, the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia and become the top oil producer in the world. Previous reports from the agency said that it expected Saudi Arabia to continue being the world’s top producer until 2035. IEA’s chief economist also says they believe that by 2015, the U.S. will pass Russia as the world’s largest gas producer. Today’s report from the agency cited a recent rebound in gas and oil product in the U.S. as the main reason for its view change. It also says new technologies are “unlocking light tight oil and shale gas resources.”

Saudi Oil

The IEA also expects U.S. oil imports to continue dropping. By 2030 the agency believes North America will become a net oil exporter. After the IEA report was released, analysts began to question the idea of the U.S. becoming a net exporter of crude oil. Experts at Raymond James & Associates believe that the U.S. will continue to be a net importer of crude, at least through 2020. However they also believe that it is possible for the country to become a net exporter after that.

Raymond James analysts emphasize an between exporting oil and being a net exporter of oil is quite large. An oil exporting nation simply sells oils to other countries, which the U.S. already does, mostly to Canada, while a net exporter of oil exports more oil to other countries than the value of the oil it imports from other nations. Additionally they note many regulation issues related to oil and state ‘thinking about exporting crude? Read this first… and then hire a lawyer.

Oil wells along the Gulf Coast are steadily ramping up production, and analysts believe that by next year, local refineries will be saturated, so exports could begin occurring at a much more rapid pace than they are now. Currently some Gulf Coast producers have applied for permits to export crude, and some of them have even been granted licenses. However, analysts believe that political opposition to the exporting of oil will make it difficult for this trend to continue.