Decades of Growth in the Bakken Shale

Oil Well

U.S. natural-gas production will accelerate over the next three decades, new research indicates, providing the strongest evidence yet that the energy boom remaking America will last for a generation.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) calls the Bakken Formation the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed. It stretches down from Saskatchewan into North Dakota and Montana. In 1995, the USGS surveyed the Bakken area in which they found roughly 151 million barrels of recoverable oil. Since then, drilling technology has improved causing reserve estimates to spike between 10-12 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The largest current oil field, which is located at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (ANWAR), could potentially hold up to 10 billion barrels of oil. However, the ANWAR presently has a drilling ban on it due to environmental issues. This would make the Bakken formation the largest oil discovery in the U.S. next to the oil fields in Alaska.

The Bakken shale oil field is one of the most active oil fields in the U.S., and drilling in the Bakken Formation has caused a huge economic boom to North Dakota and Montana. In North Dakota alone, oil production has now reached over 800,000 barrels per day (BPD) ending 2012. Daily production will go over 1 million BPD heading into early 2013.

Just a few years ago in 2007, the Bakken was considered a marginal to sub-marginal resource because the oil and natural gas are locked in a rock formation with a low permeability. However, advances in drilling and recovery technology such as horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing have transformed the Bakken into a prolific oil and natural gas producer. Since then, the Bakken has propelled North Dakota oil production to record levels, moving the state to the position of #2 oil producer in the United States. The only state that produces more crude oil is Texas.

The Bakken Formation, in addition to giving a major boost to the North Dakota economy, has reduced unemployment in the state to less than 2%, some of the lowest rates in the nation. The Bakken resources are expected to be productive for decades and make a major contribution to the future energy independence of the United States.

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