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Page added on December 12, 2017

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US Geological Survey To Reevaluate Bakken Oil Reserves


Federal geologists will lead a push to reevaluate the total amount of recoverable oil near North Dakota’s Bakken formation, according to the state’s Senator John Hoeven.

Hoeven requested the new analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey in an attempt to attract new investors to the shale play. The survey will now include 17 other formations in the state that could be commercially exploited using newly developed extraction technology.

USGS deputy director William Werkheiser said the federal agency would work with “appropriate state and local officials and technical experts to ensure we develop the best possible product in a timely manner.”

Crude oil production in the Bakken shale in North Dakota has been experiencing some major challenges lately, but it is firmly on the growth path, said the state’s Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms in an interview for S&P Global Platts last month.

Helms identified as the biggest challenges a) growing production in the Permian and b) a hypothetical end to the OPEC production cut agreement. While the first challenge is very real, the latter challenge is more likely than not to remain hypothetical for the foreseeable future. E&Ps in the Bakken will continue to pump more than 1 million bpd but less than 1.1 million bpd until the end of the year and into 2018.

“We should see oil production in a growth mode, 10-15,000 b/d month on month is where we expect to be,” Helms said, adding that the North Dakota shale industry would need West Texas Intermediate at $60 a barrel to start expanding production beyond the 1.1-million-bpd mark. At the time of this article’s writing, WTI traded at $58.01 a barrel.

Still, competition from the Permian with its lower production costs in the sweetest spots is hampering this production growth in North Dakota.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for

4 Comments on "US Geological Survey To Reevaluate Bakken Oil Reserves"

  1. rockman on Tue, 12th Dec 2017 9:25 am 

    The same tech was available to develop those 17 other formations when oil was $90/bbl as is available today. Perhaps some promoters could use numbers cooked up by the USGS to lure in some unsophisticated investors. But the pros look at each prospect on its own merits. If a prospect didn’t look viable several years ago when oil prices were higher nothing the Survey can add to the story will make it look economic today.

  2. deadlykillerbeaz on Tue, 12th Dec 2017 9:44 am 

    Historical monthly oil production:

    2014 12 38116734 1229572 11749 3244 105

    2017 9 33213128 1107104 13881 2393 80

    2131 more wells, 4,900,000 barrels per month decline in production.

    More than a 20 percent drop per well average in 2 years and 9 months. About 7 percent decline per year.

    All formations.

    A well inventory of 700 plus to be completed, 50 rigs drilling 50 wells in 20 days, 900 more wells each year for the next 20 years,. 18,000 new wells capable of maintaining a well count of maybe 15,000 over the future years, the one million bpd production is probably what will happen. Wells go dry, they do stop producing crude.

    Then a fat tail for another 30 years.

  3. Boat on Tue, 12th Dec 2017 2:02 pm 

    Back in 2014/high prices and the Bakken heyday, producers were drilling and fracking 230-250 wells per month. The last 5 month they are up to around 100 completed wells per month.

  4. Anonymous on Fri, 15th Dec 2017 10:46 am 

    1. The last USGS survey was done in 2013 and mostly used data from 2011 and prior. We have drilled a lot more holes since then and this can inform a new study. Production helps inform studies of this kind. It is not unusual for more detailed data to drive a new answer.

    Consider that we doubled the undiscovered TRR estimate from 2008 to 2013. Other basins have also seen resource estimates dramatically change when new studies are done. Whether the Bakken changes now or not, I don’t know (or in what direction). But it is not crazy talk to include that possibility.

    2. Completion strategies and drilling performance are improving. The changes are evolutionary rather than representing fundamental new inventions. However they still have an impact. The MIT study showed this to be the case, even on a location neutral basis. Actually download the real science paper and look at the figures where they allocate well improvements for 360 day cum to location, water, proppant, and lateral length. All factors are significant, even using the most finely tuned method to disaggregate sweet spotting.

    3. Harder to quantify but geosteering may have improved. Maybe even just from operators practicing.

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