HOUSTON, March 5Production of oil and gas from shale basins like the Eagle Ford in south Texas are growing fast enough that North America may be an energy exporter within a decade, the chief executive of ConocoPhillips said on Tuesday. U.S. imports of foreign crude fell to the lowest level in 15 last year as domestic production surged and demand fell, according to data released by the U.S. Energy Administration last month. "The new landscape is like someone picked up the energy world and tilted it," Ryan Lance, Conoco's CEO told IHS CERAWeek delegates attending the Houston energy conference. Shale development, which brings a faster payoff than a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, has changed the investment cycle because it does not require massive up-front investments, Lance said. Companies are also being pushed to speed up drilling times, improve efficiency and control costs as rig fleets are rolled out in shale and other unconventional formations. "These are huge drilling programs that need more people to run them," Lance said. "So planning and execution is very different from a deepwater development with far few wells." Shale development may be jeopardized, however, if the industry is not taxed fairly and the government does not open more areas to development, the executive said. Shares of ConocoPhillips, the largest U.S. independent oil and gas company by market value rose 3 cents to $57.65 in morning New York Stock Exchange trading.
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