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US has super-sized oil field

April 7, 2008

by Roz Kohls

Finally, some good news about the supply of oil, and it’s coming right from our next door neighbors in North Dakota.

Thanks to new technology, and the Bakken Formation in western North Dakota, America’s oil reserves could be boosted 10 times. That’s right, 10 times. With new horizontal drilling technology, 175 to 500 billion barrels of oil could be extracted from the 200,000-square-mile reserve.

The Bakken Formation, which is shale that holds oil, will make western economies immune to OPEC, Iranian and Venezuelan threats of cutting off our oil supply.

The massive 200 billion-barrel oil field was actually discovered in 1951, but the technology to get to the oil wasn’t available. The US Geological Survey did another study on the Bakken Formation in 1999. The horizontal technology to get at the oil in the shale existed, but the price of oil, $10 a barrel, was too low to make investors willing to drill for it. Horizontal drilling is expensive. The price of oil per barrel needs to be between $20 to $40 a barrel.

Then in 2007, EOG Resources of Texas drilled a single well in Parshal, N.D. that is expected to yield 700,000 barrels of oil.

Now, the Bakken Formation has created a frenzy. Marathon Oil invested $1.5 billion in it and is drilling 300 new wells. The Bakken Formation is the greatest oil discovery since oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938, according to a Feb. 13 report in Next Energy News.

In 2007, the US imported about 14 million barrels of oil per day. That means US consumers spent $340 billion building palaces in Dubai and propping up unfriendly regimes around the world.

Instead, the Bakken Formation will add $18 trillion to the US economy, according to Next Energy News.

Now, if we can just keep the environmentalists from squeezing out investment and exploration in the Bakken Formation, the way they did in the area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, (ANWR.) The ANWR oil fields are estimated to contain 1.9 billion barrels. Environmentalists are afraid, though, if we drill for it, we will disturb the animals, birds and grasses of the coastal plain on Alaska’s north shore.

I wish I had more confidence in government’s common sense, and its ability to resist environmental pressure groups, but I don’t. It would be a shame for the Bakken Formation to go to waste.