USGS to update Bakken formation assessment, Salazar says

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, May 19 -- The US Geological Survey will update its 2008 assessment of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas in the US portion of the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar announced. The update will begin in October and take 2 years to complete, depending on funding, he said.

“We must develop our resources armed with the best science available, and with wells drilled in the Bakken during the past 3 years, there is significant new geological information,” Salazar said on May 19. “With ever-advancing production technologies, this could mean more oil could potentially be recovered in the formation.”

The 2008 USGS assessment estimated 3-4.5 billion bbl of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in the formation’s US portion, with a 3.65 billion bbl mean value.  It excluded the Three Forks formation.

The US Department of the Interior agency routinely updates its oil and gas assessments when fresh information is available abut a basin’s geology or when drilling and production technology advances.

The 2008 Bakken formation assessment was larger than all other current USGS oil assessments of the Lower 48 and is the largest “continuous” oil accumulation ever assessed by USGS. “The new scientific information presented to us from technical experts clearly warrants a new resource assessment of the Bakken,” said Brenda Pierce, the agency’s energy resources program coordinator. “It is significant enough for the evaluation to begin sooner than it normally would.”

The 2008 assessment showed an increase in the amount of technically recoverable crude from the agency’s 1995 estimate of 151 million bbl due to geological models, drilling and production technology advances, and additional discoveries. About 135 million bbl were produced from the formation between 1953 and 2008, 36 million bbl in 2008 alone, according to USGS. It said that state statistics indicate Bakken production in North Dakota steadily increase from 28 million bbl in 2008 to 50 million bbl in 2009 to 86 million bbl in 2010.

USGS said the Bakken update effort will be a standard assessment task under the agency’s existing national oil and gas assessment. Drilling and production will continue in the formation while the effort is under way, it noted.

Contact Nick Snow at

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