BISMARCK, N.D. — Government data released Tuesday show that 7.4 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from two massive shale formations spanning parts of the Dakotas and Montana, nearly double the amount previously estimated for the region.
The new number from the U.S. Geological Survey is based on data largely from oil company and state drilling records. But unlike the agency's 2008 estimate, it includes more than 3 billion barrels of oil believed held in the Three Forks formation, which is directly below the oil-rich Bakken formation.
Large-scale drilling in Three Forks didn't occur until after that earlier assessment, and the formation is now estimated to hold as much recoverable crude as the Bakken, according to the USGS. The agency calls the formations the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed — and some industry insiders think its potential is even stronger.
"It's a great number but it's conservative," said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 400 companies working in western North Dakota's booming oil patch.USGS in 2008 had estimated there were 3 billion-4.3 billion barrels of oil in the U.S. part of the formation. That estimate was 25 times greater than the previous estimate in 1991. Putting the two estimate updates together, dedicated exploration and development have driven the USGS estimate up by a factor of 50 in 22 years. This is great news for U.S. energy security and the U.S. economy -- if the oil is made readily accessible.
|Economic Impacts of the Oil Patch|