New, Lower Estimate of Bakken Recoverables
ND Study: 167 Billion Barrels of Oil in Bakken
AFX News Limited Monday, April 28, 2008
The Bakken shale formation in North Dakota holds up to 167 billion barrels of oil but only about 1 percent of it can be recovered using current technology, a new study says. The study released Monday said current technology could lead to the recovery of about 2.1 billion barrels in North Dakota’s portion of the formation, where oil-producing rock is sandwiched between layers of shale about 10,000 feet under
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the ground. The estimate of recoverable oil included in the study by the state Department of Mineral Resources was similar to that of a federal study released earlier this month.
“The future potential is enormous — it means we will be able to exploit this for the rest of the century,” said Lynn Helms, the department’s director, at the annual state oil conference Monday.
Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, cautioned against over-hyping the Bakken play.
“This study gives a number that by no means guarantees those are the amount of barrels we can count on,” Ness said.
The U.S. had some 20.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves in 2006, the most recent year available, said John Wood, director of reserves and production for the U.S. Department of Energy’s information administration.
North Dakota contributed 422 million barrels of proven oil reserves to that number two years ago, before the Bakken estimates were released, he said.
The Bakken shale formation encompasses some 25,000 square miles in North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. About two-thirds of the acreage is in western North Dakota.
To capture oil from the portion of the Bakken in North Dakota, companies drill wells that plunge vertically to about 10,000 feet and then “kick out” for as many feet horizontally. Pressurized fluid and sand are then forced into the horizontal wells to break oil-containing pores in the sandstone and siltstone.
Ness said it costs more than $5 million to drill a Bakken well, and dozens are currently producing.
The state study’s findings are similar to those of a separate federal study released on April 10.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that up to 4.3 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and Montana combined, using current technology.
The federal report found up to 2.6 billion barrels could be recovered in North Dakota, compared with the state’s estimate of 2.1 billion barrels, said Ed Murphy, the state geologist and director of the state Geological Survey.
“We were quite surprised the numbers were so close,” he said.
Helms said the federal study focused on the performance of wells currently working in the Bakken, while the state “went back and looked at the rock.”
The most recent federal study does not estimate how much oil may be in the formation — only what the agency believes can be recovered using current technology.