Wow: More Than 90% Of Bakken Oil Remains Untouched


North Dakota oil production is growing exponentially:

Oil production in the nation’s shale oil plays (those made possible by fracking and horizontal drilling) has boosted overall US production to a 17-year high:

As amazing as that growth in production is, the astounding reality is that we are just scratching the surface of what may be recoverable. Right now, in the Bakken, the oil industry is tapping into just six to eight percent of the oil that’s in the ground (via Million Dollar Way):

North Dakota was once a place early pioneers came to explore. Today there`s more exploration in the oil fields where companies are pioneering new technologies to enhance oil recovery. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened the flood gates to extract oil from the Bakken. Yet companies are still only recovering six to eight percent of the oil in the ground.

So now the goal is to become more efficient and test new technologies that would allow the other 92 percent of the oil in the Bakken to be used.

Newer recovery methods are moving past hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to other technologies that would provide even greater efficiency.

“As we continue with our technology and we get better and better at what we`re doing on all three fronts, the geology, the horizontal drilling and the fracking technology, and then bring in that secondary and tertiary recovery, the future is just tremendous for North Dakota,” said Kathleen Neset with Neset Consulting Service.

Keep in mind that, just a few short years ago, there were “peak oil” theories which indicated that we would run out of oil. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, some were predicting that we would run out of oil in our lifetimes.

But, like the agriculture Malthusians before them, they were wrong. Because they didn’t take into account the ingenuity and inventiveness of mankind. We are constantly inventing new and better ways of doing things. That’s what fracking was for oil and gas production. A new and better way of tapping into our natural resources.

For the Bakken and other shale oil/gas plays, when the resources will be recovered is a matter of market forces and the rate of technological advancements. But I think that’s definitely a “when” question, not a “will we” question.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • borborygmi

    Quick lower the extraction tax because the oil companies are …….oh wait never mind.

    • JoeMN

      Did you ever stop to think that perhaps the other 90 percent will cost much more to recover ?

  • mikemc1970

    If Obama gets four more, he’ll have more “flexibility” to circumvent private property laws and see that it stays at 90% untouched.

    • borborygmi

      as much bs as the oil companies are going to leave because the taxe is to high or complicated

      • mikemc1970

        That’s likely how Obama will do it when he’s more “flexible”.

    • Maggie

      You won’t need to worry about President Obama….Your elected officials in North Dakota has already “circumvented private property laws”.
      At the end of 2014 North Dakota will see a decline in oil production, and here’s why:

      Listening to an 08-05-12 interview by Bill Lovelace of Platts Energy Weekly TV, with Lynn Helms, Director of the NDIC, the Director made the following statements regarding the Bakken:

      1) In approximately 1.5 years Phase one of ND oil development plan will be completed.

      2) At the end of Phase One all leases will be “Held by Production” as every spacing unit will contain one oil well.

      3) Phase two, the development phase, these oil companies will come back to these oversized spacing units and drill an additional 6-16 additional wells. This second phase will take approximately 16-18 years.

      This development plan is severely flawed. Once a “spacing unit” is “Held by
      Production”, there are no laws which will force these oil companies to come
      back and drill additional wells to fully develop these oversized “Spacing

      At the end of 2014 all mineral acres will be held by production. Your North Dakota elected officials have just given control of approximately 7/8 of UNPRODUCED mineral acres to the oil companies. These oil companies will now be able to restrict production and raise prices.

      What does this mean to America? Higher prices at the pumps. The oil companies will make far greater profits by limiting production.

      Horizontal wells have a lifespan of 28 years. Horizontal oil wells severely decline in production their first year. These oil companies don’t have to drill additional wells on these oversized spacing units until the ONE well lifespan is gone…..28 years!


  • borborygmi

    boosted overall US production to a 17-year high: Wait , yet gas prices are still high. Drill baby Drill , yet gas prices are still high.

    • mikemc1970

      Obama has said these prices had to go up to give legitimacy to his green fuel scheme and you actually think it is someone else raising them, then magically lowering just before the election? You drink that kool-aid, you drink it up.

      • antred

        Gas prices have very little to do with what Obama says or does. The fact of the matter is that crude oil prices have roughly tripled in the period since 2004 because contrary to what most people believe, there is no glut of cheap and abundant oil. Conventional crude oil production has been stagnating since about 2004 (some say it’s actually in decline). Tight oil and oil from bituminous sands are taking up some of the slack, but that oil is a lot more expensive (both in terms of money and energy inputs) to produce.

  • antred

    You’ll never even get close to being able to extract ALL the oil in place (that’s what’s called the resource). That’s just the way it is, even with conventional oil fields you normally only get between 30 and 70% of what’s there, and tight oil is far more difficult to extract, so the URR (ultimately recoverable reserves) is always going to remain a small fraction of the total oil in place. The latest estimate is that the ultimately recoverable reserves in the Bakken formation are about 7 Gb. To put that into perspective, the world consumes about 30 Gb of crude oil in a single year.