It has been more than a year since the Department of Interior announced that
North Dakota and Montana have an estimated 3 to 4.3 billion barrels of
recoverable oil in an area known as the Bakken Formation, but little is being
done about it.

The April 2008, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessment
shows a 25-fold increase in the amount of oil that can be recovered compared to
the agency’s 1995 estimate of a paltry 151 million barrels of oil. That would be
3,775 million (or 3.775 billion) barrels. New geologic models applied to the
Bakken Formation, advances in drilling and production technologies, and recent
oil discoveries have resulted in these substantially larger oil

The USGS Bakken study was undertaken as part of a nationwide
project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and
protocol as required by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000, yet only
105 million barrels of oil had been produced from the Bakken Formation by the
end of 2007.

At the time of the assessment, a limited number of wells have produced oil from
three of the assessments units (AUs) in Central Basin-Poplar Dome, Eastern
Expulsion Threshold and Northwest Expulsion Threshold. The Elm Coulee oil field
in Montana, discovered in 2000, has produced about 65 million barrels of the 105
million barrels of oil recovered from the Bakken Formation.

The Bakken
Formation estimate is larger than all other current USGS oil assessments of the
“Lower 48” states and is the largest continuous oil accumulation ever assessed
by the USGS. A “continuous” oil accumulation means that the oil resource is
dispersed throughout a geologic formation rather than existing as discrete,
localized occurrences. The next largest continuous oil accumulation in the U.S.
is in the Austin Chalk of Texas and Louisiana, with an undiscovered estimate of
1 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.

By tapping these
domestic resources, rather than remaining dependent upon foreign sources,
America could drastically reduce its cost of home heating and vehicular

Technically recoverable oil resources are those producible using
currently available technology and industry practices. USGS is the only provider
of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and
gas resources.

“It is clear that the Bakken formation contains a
significant amount of oil—the question is, how much of that oil is recoverable
using today’s technology?” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) “To get an answer to
this important question, I requested that the U.S. Geological Survey complete
this study, which will provide an up-to-date estimate on the amount of
technically recoverable oil resources in the Bakken Shale

Scientists conducted detailed studies in stratigraphy and
structural geology and the modeling of petroleum geochemistry. They also
combined their findings with exploration and production analyses to determine
the undiscovered, technically recoverable oil estimates.

USGS worked with
the North Dakota Geological Survey, a number of petroleum industry companies and
independent, universities and other experts to develop a geological
understanding of the Bakken Formation. These groups provided critical
information for models used in the assessment.

“This sizable find is now
the highest producing onshore oil field found in the past 56 years,” said The
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

James Bartis, leading researcher with the
study, says America has more oil in this one compact area than the entire Middle
East. And the stunning news is that we have more oil inside our borders than all
the other proven reserves on Earth, and that it could be extracted at an
approximate cost to Americans of only $16 a barrel

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