The Bakken Formation in North Dakota has been making news as oil prices have lingered at record-highs.
America is sitting on top of a super massive 200 billion barrel Oil Field that could potentially make America Energy Independent and until now has largely gone unnoticed. Thanks to new technology the Bakken Formation in North Dakota could boost America’s Oil reserves by an incredible 10 times, giving western economies the trump card against OPEC’s short squeeze on oil supply and making Iranian and Venezuelan threats of disrupted supply irrelevant.
In the next 30 days the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) will release a new report giving an accurate resource assessment of the Bakken Oil Formation that covers North Dakota and portions of South Dakota and Montana. With new horizontal drilling technology it is believed that from 175 to 500 billion barrels of recoverable oil are held in this 200,000 square mile reserve that was initially discovered in 1951. The USGS did an initial study back in 1999 that estimated 400 billion recoverable barrels were present but with prices bottoming out at $10 a barrel back then the report was dismissed because of the higher cost of horizontal drilling techniques that would be needed, estimated at $20-$40 a barrel.
That's a lot of oil, but we may not have the technology to recover the majority of it... yet.
New curiosity developed in 2007 when EOG Resources out of Houston, Texas reported that a single well it had drilled into an oil-rich layer of shale below Parshall, North Dakota is anticipated to produce 700,000 barrels (111,000 m³) of oil. Estimates for ultimate oil contained in the entire Bakken play range from 271 billion to 503 billion barrels (40–80 km³), with a mean of 413 billion barrels (65 km³) of technically recoverable and irrecoverable oil.
This massive estimate appears to dwarf the estimated 50–70 billion barrels (8–11 km³) of technically recoverable and irrecoverable oil in Alaska's North Slope. A conservative estimate of Bakken's technically recoverable oil would be 1% to 3%, or between 4.1 and 12.4 billion barrels (0.6–2 km³) of oil, due to the fact that Bakken's shale is so tight. However, other estimates range from 10% to as high as 50% technically recoverable reserves. By comparison, recoverable oil estimates in the Alaska formation are 30% to 50%, or a mean of 26 billion barrels (4 km³).
The key phrase is "technically recoverable". As technology improves (and oil prices rise) the amount of "technically recoverable" also increases. (Another illustration of why oil depletion is a myth.)