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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What are the oil reserves in the Bakken Formation?

The USGS provides estimates of undiscovered, technically recoverable resources that have yet to be found (drilled), but if found, could be produced using currently available technology and industry practices. These estimates are based on knowledge about the geology of the area. In contrast, reserves are oil resources that are already discovered,...

How much oil and gas are actually in the Bakken Formation?

The USGS estimates that there may be 4.4 to 11.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in the Bakken Formation (with a mean estimate of 7.4 billion barrels). These are estimates of oil that has yet to be found, but if found, could be produced using currently available technology and industry practices. Estimates are based on...

What are some of the difficulties of drilling in the Bakken Formation?

Traditional oil fields extract oil from rocks with relatively high porosity and permeability, so the oil flows out fairly easily. In contrast, the Bakken Formation is a relatively tight formation with low porosity and low permeability rock, from which oil flows with difficulty. To overcome this problem, wells in the Bakken Formation use a method...

How much oil does the Bakken Formation produce and how does this compare to what the United States uses?

The USGS does not maintain statistics on oil production or oil consumption. Production information can be obtained from publicly available sources like the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources , and/or the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation . The U.S. Energy Information Administration provides information on oil...

Does the Bakken Formation contain more oil than Saudi Arabia?

Probably not. In 2000, the USGS assessed undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas in Saudi Arabia at 87 billion barrels ( USGS 2000 World Petroleum Assessment ) compared to a mean estimate of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in the Bakken formation of 7.4 billion barrels. In addition, Saudi Arabia contains even more oil that has...

What are the environmental considerations of drilling in the Bakken Formation?

Environmental issues include: land surface disturbance the amount of water initially required to hydraulically fracture (or “frack”) the well disposal of the poor-quality water produced with the oil air pollution groundwater contamination oil spills disruption of wildlife corridors In many cases, particularly on private land, it is the state...
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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 Gas 3
December 31, 2016

Bakken Well in North Dakota

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

Oil and Gas1
December 31, 2016

Well Drill in the Bakken Formation near Williston

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

Image: Bakken Drilling
March 14, 2016

Bakken Drilling

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

Bakken Drill Rig

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

Image: Bakken Drill Rig
March 14, 2016

Bakken Drill Rig

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

Image: Bakken Oil Well
April 30, 2014

Bakken Oil Well

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.