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A bootstrap approach to computing uncertainty in inferred oil and gas reserve estimates

August 17, 2004

This study develops confidence intervals for estimates of inferred oil and gas reserves based on bootstrap procedures. Inferred reserves are expected additions to proved reserves in previously discovered conventional oil and gas fields. Estimates of inferred reserves accounted for 65% of the total oil and 34% of the total gas assessed in the U.S. Geological Survey’s 1995 National Assessment of oil and gas in US onshore and State offshore areas. When the same computational methods used in the 1995 Assessment are applied to more recent data, the 80-year (from 1997 through 2076) inferred reserve estimates for pre-1997 discoveries located in the lower 48 onshore and state offshore areas amounted to a total of 39.7 billion barrels of oil (BBO) and 293 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas. The 90% confidence interval about the oil estimate derived from the bootstrap approach is 22.4 BBO to 69.5 BBO. The comparable 90% confidence interval for the inferred gas reserve estimate is 217 TCF to 413 TCF. The 90% confidence interval describes the uncertainty that should be attached to the estimates. It also provides a basis for developing scenarios to explore the implications for energy policy analysis.