USGS Finds Largest Continuous Oil Deposit in U.S. To Date

November 16, 2016

2 Min Read
USGS Finds Largest Continuous Oil Deposit in U.S. To Date
A view of the massive oil deposit in west Texas. Image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has found what it calls the “largest estimate of continuous oil” that the agency has “ever assessed in the United States” at Wolfcamp shale, a large shale rock formation in the Midland Basin of west Texas’ Permian Basin province, the agency announced by press release Tuesday.  

“The fact that this is the largest assessment of continuous oil we have ever done just goes to show that, even in areas that have produced billions of barrels of oil, there is still the potential to find billions more,” said Walter Guidroz, program coordinator for the USGS Energy Resources Program in a statement. “Changes in technology and industry practices can have significant effects on what resources are technically recoverable, and that’s why we continue to perform resources assessments throughout the United States and the world.”

USGS researchers estimate that some 20 billion barrels of oil are recoverable there, along with 16 trillion-cu.-ft. of associated natural gas, and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. According to the agency, the new assessment of the estimated continuous oil accumulation is three times larger than its 2013 USGS Bakken-Three Forks resource assessment.

The area has been drilled for oil in the past, with more than 3000 horizontal wells drilled and completed in the Midland Basin Wolfcamp section to date, according to the USGS. It is unclear whether or not it will be profitable to recover this oil, the agency said. Continuous oil sites typically need special technical drilling and recovery methods like hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The Wolfcamp shale accumulation extends into the Delaware basin of the Permian Basin province, but the USGS said this area was not examined. A full version of the USGS report can be found here.

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