What are "technically recoverable" oil and gas resources?

“Technically recoverable” means that the oil and/or gas can be produced using currently available technology and industry practices. This is regardless of any economic or accessibility considerations.

For example, the technology required to produce oil from a location might exist, but it costs more than the oil is worth. The oil is still technically recoverable.

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Date published: May 2, 2013

USGS Releases New Oil and Gas Assessment for Bakken and Three Forks Formations

On April 30, 2013, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released an updated oil and gas resource assessment for the Bakken Formation and a new assessment for the Three Forks Formation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.  The assessments found that the formations contain an estimated mean of 7.4 billion barrels (BBO) of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil.  The updated...

Date published: November 10, 2008

3 to 4.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil assessed in Bakken Formation

USGS Bakken expert to present findings at Energy Expo in Bismarck

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Richard Pollastro, lead researcher on a recent study assessing the undiscovered oil resources in the Bakken Formation, will present at the Great Plains Energy Expo in Bismarck on Tuesday, November 11.

Date published: April 10, 2008

3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of Technically Recoverable Oil Assessed in North Dakota and Montana’s Bakken Formation—25 Times More Than 1995 Estimate—

North Dakota and Montana have an estimated 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in an area known as the Bakken Formation.

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Oil and Gas1
2016 (approx.)

Water truck in background is providing maintenance water to a producing well drilled in the Bakken Formation near Williston, North Dakota. 

Oil and Gas 3
2016 (approx.)

Bakken well in North Dakota (Photograph by Joanna Thamke, USGS).

Image: Bakken Drilling
March 14, 2016

Bakken drilling and completion activities at a well along Interstate-94, 6 miles east of Belfield, North Dakota.

Image: Bakken Drill Rig
March 14, 2016

A drill rig in the Bakken oil field in Stark County, western North Dakota. 

Image: Bakken Drill Rig
March 14, 2016

A drill rig in the Bakken oil field in Stark County, western North Dakota. 

Image: Bakken Oil Well
April 30, 2014

Oil-well pads dotting the landscape of typical badland topography. Thousands of new wells are drilled into the Bakken and Three Forks annually, making this one of the most productive plays in the Nation.