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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Markus Kemp

    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.

  • Markus Kemp

    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.

  • JoeMN

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