A billion barrels and counting

One billion barrels recovered, how many more billion to go?

Data released this week from oil companies drilling in the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana shows that the formation has produced 1 billion barrels of crude oil, including 852 million barrels recovered in North Dakota and about 151 barrels recovered in Montana.

The question remains: How much more oil is recoverable from the Bakken shale formation?

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that up to 7.4 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the Bakken and the Three Forks formation, which lies beneath the Bakken. But that estimate is based on current technology, which means it’s likely more than 7.4 billion barrels will be recoverable as technology continues to improve. That, then, leads to this question: How long will it take the oil industry to recover the next 6.4 billion barrels of oil?

One of the questions surrounding the ongoing oil boom in western North Dakota is how long it will last. Conservatively, the official estimate of 7.4 billion recoverable barrels would seem to indicate that the industry isn’t going anywhere in the near future, with at least another 6.4 billion barrels remaining to be recovered.

Harold Hamm, chairman of Continental Resources Inc., one of the earliest copanies to drill in the Bakken, has estimated the formation holds more than 20 billion barrels of recoverable oil. If he’s right, or even close to right, then the seemingly inevitable oil bust that has happened with previous oil booms certainly appears to be something the state wouldn’t have to deal with until well into the future.

Here’s to the next billion barrels.