The U.S. oil industry, the world leader in technology in extracting oil, is leading an new oil boom from the reserviours that were overlooked because the oil wouldn’t flow from tight sands and shale rocks.  For now the big rush is getting underway from the U.S. example of natural gas and oil recovery using horizontal drilling and formation fracturing into the shale rocks.

So, how much oil is there in newly economic shale oil deposits around the world?  It will take decades to find out.  On the other hand, that’s not stopping energy companies and government agencies from offering some huge prospective resource guestimates of tens of billions of barrels of oil, all with almost no data to back it up.

There is the U.S. and Canadian Bakken field with an operating history. From that a prospective resource an estimate of the amount of oil that might be the recoverable volume of oil in a reservoir.

Bakken Formation in the Williston Basin. Click image for the largest view.

All that new Bakken wealth creation has both the industry and investors very excited about finding huge new shale oil plays around the globe.  Some great prospects are beginning to show fruit.

A shale oil formation in New Zealand could be 12 billion barrels of oil with a “high case” of 37 billion barrels from an independent estimate of TAG Oil leases and that’s only on a fraction of the company’s land. The idea is based three historical drill holes. The subsurface geology looks just like the Bakken, and Tag Oil plan to drill using modern techniques this year.

The Paris Basin in France (yes, France) has 22 drill holes of note with records.  Geologically it looks like the Bakken as well, and Toreador Resources plans to drill modern test wells through it this year.  The company’s independent report projects the Paris Basin may generate 100 billion barrels of oil, 12 billion of which could be under the Toreador leased land.

Europe's Paris Basin. Click image for the largest view.

The Arthur Creek shale formation in Australia has 15 historical wells, which may show the oil charged shale. Geologically it looks just like the Bakken as well, and PetroFrontier plans to drill it this year. The pre drilling report suggests the Arthur Creek could have 26.4 billion barrels of oil in its “best case”.

Australia's Georgina Basin Where the Aurthur Creek Shale Formation is Found. Click image for the largest view.

All of this is based in speculation.  So to speak.  What isn’t speculated is the shale is there in these formations and there is oil within. And there are more shale is check and more shale to find.

Independent oil and gas reservoir evaluators like AJM in Canada use many data points into calculating prospective resource estimates in the early days of reserve development.  The information comes primarily from oil historical drill hole data and any core materials that may be available. That’s paired up to the visually obvious estimated length and width, or aerial extent of the formation, and the oil bearing rock’s thickness, i.e. how thick is the formation, plus the Total Organic Content, which makes up the oil or gas, and the ‘porosity’ of the formation, a way to describe how much room is there between the grains of sand or rock to hold petroleum products.

This kind of basic data and everything else that can be found is evaluated, then the independent evaluator looks at what other geologically similar deposits have produced.

Today there is only the U.S. / Canadian Bakken, to learn how much oil has been actually recovered out of the Bakken deposits to come up with an early stage prediction of the resource potential of the shale formation.

The biggest risk aside form looking at the biggest numbers is, how far can you extend a discovered resource from a drill hole?  That’s where the horizontal drilling comes in. The horizontal drilling proves or disproves what is usually learned from the seismic surveys. Which in fact now – are getting very good, very good indeed.

These shale formations have shown themselves to be very consistent over tens of kilometers (or miles), but they can also be patchy and it’s just a statistical guess that will get more refined each passing year with more data.  On the other hand, what might seem thin could be rich as well a rich becoming thin.  It simply takes more wells drilled and more experience to firm up the estimates.

US Shale Bearing Formations Natural Gas Highlighted. Click image for the largest view.

If memory serves, the horizontal drilling plus formation fracturing really got going barely a decade or so ago in North Texas’ Barnett formation. A decade has reversed the U.S. natural gas situation completely, built a major new field in the U.S. and Canada, and will drive investment, income, jobs and a reliable supply in part for North America for decades to come.

The technology that provides all that oil and gas from shale rock is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is still being constantly improved upon. That creates a moving estimation target for evaluators trying to guestimate a prospective resource.

And nothing is even being said about the secondary and tertiary recovery.

Those numbers, as seen by operations in old formations that have wildly over produced, extended their productive periods, some over 100 years – could be quite low.  Another resource not even in view are those oil fields that aren’t so hard to recover oil, but may see new lives as the new technologies are applied.

While the peak oil and the purveyors of doom carry on, the free worlds oil and gas business, their service companies and researchers private, in universities and in companies press on.

One other point. The AJM site, which is Canadian, has some fascinating information, projections and other information well worth your perusal. As the rules are different up there some industry specific things U.S. firms might not be able to say are readily available. Its quite enlightening.


6 Comments so far

  1. BKP: Some Big New Oil Reserves Are Coming on March 23, 2011 2:27 AM

    […] […]

  2. JDFuller on May 2, 2011 2:29 PM

    What of the speculators? Is this find lost ont hema nd if not why is gas still climbing? Do the “oil rich” nations give a hoot that we can recover this? Does the White House?

  3. News, indiana residents: Gasoline prices are forcing us to park our cars - Politics and Other Controversies -Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals, Third Parties, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Congress, President - City-Data Forum on May 9, 2011 9:58 PM

    […] side will be coming to an end in the not so distant future get used to it..!!! Or not. source […]

  4. Werner Legoullon on May 26, 2011 6:27 PM

    Good! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

  5. Elroy Burdge on August 30, 2011 5:49 PM

    Hello, this is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting in your blog especially on how to determine the topic. keep up the good work.

  6. Edgar Deroberts on September 7, 2011 11:02 PM

    Nice post! You truly have a wonderful way of writing which I find captivating! I will definitely be bookmarking you and returning to your blog. In fact, your post reminded me about a strange thing that happened to me the other day. I’ll tell you about that later…

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind