There’s Twice as Much Oil Below North Dakota than We Thought

May 1, 2013

An oil well outside South Heart, ND. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

Don’t expect the energy boom in Montana and the Dakotas to end anytime soon.  According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the formations below these three states hold double the amount of oil and triple the amount of natural gas than was believed five years ago. National Journal reports:

The formations, called Bakken and Three Forks, span much of western North Dakota, the northern tip of South Dakota and the northeastern tip of Montana. The last time the United States Geological Survey assessed this area for its oil and gas reserves was in 2008. But that assessment did not include the Three Forks formation, which explains the substantial increase in the estimates. USGS estimates that these two formations together hold 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered—but technically recoverable—oil and 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Reuters points out that USGS estimates are often conservativeThe United States Geological Survey noted that 450 million barrels of oil have already been produced from these formations since 2008. Expect much more to come.

In a statement on this good news, Institute for 21st Century Energy president and CEO Karen Harbert said that this is “further evidence that we are just at the beginning of a dramatic resurgence of American energy.”

Mark Green at Energy Tomorrow makes two good points. First, “when you’re allowed to look for oil, you find it and the resulting, previously unavailable geologic data helps you find more.” Here's a good example. The Bakken and Three Forks formations are part of the Williston Basin running underneath Montana and the Dakotas. The chart below shows the increase in oil resources as more geological analysis has been applied.

Second, Green writes that the discovery of this new oil and gas is due to energy exploration “in non-federal areas where oil and natural gas development is supported and encouraged.” Under this administration, oil and natural gas production on federal lands has fallen while total U.S. production has been hitting records.

As Harbert adds, “Energy is a bright spot for our economy so it is high time that this Administration welcome this private sector funded stimulus and rescind its decision to block the vast majority of federal lands from production and unleash even greater potential.”

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