F_Energy_RigsCould the United States reverse course from its position as the world’s largest importer of oil and natural gas to become an exporter of these resources? A recent report by the International Energy Agency suggests we can.

When Jennifer Miskimins MS ’00, PhD ’02 received her bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering in 1990, the United States oil industry was still reeling from the ’80s price collapse, most major companies had shifted their exploration efforts overseas, and those remaining on shore were slowing production and focusing on the lowest-hanging fruit.

Jennifer Miskimins

Jennifer Miskimins

Talk of an imminent ‘peak oil’ crisis was escalating. And for bright, forward-thinking engineers, job prospects were bleak.

“Nobody in their right mind was going into oil and gas at the time,” recalls Miskimins, an associate professor of petroleum engineering at Mines.

A quarter-century later, the U.S. energy landscape couldn’t look more different. According to a November report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency, ‘World Energy Outlook 2012,’ the United States is poised to be the planet’s largest oil producer by 2020, overtaking Saudi Arabia for the number one slot with a production rate of 11.1 million barrels per day. Already, domestic oil production rose more than 7 percent in 2012, marking the fourth consecutive year of increases, and the largest year-over-year spike since 1951.