Bakken Formation Ruse

August/19/2008 20:05PM
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I get an e-mail once a week from someone telling me about the 400 billion barrels of oil that are present in the Bakken Formation. This is an extension of the Williston Basin in Wyoming which has been a great producer of oil for the U.S. for the past 25 years. This formation extends into Montana, North Dakota and into Canada. 

There is a group that states this basin has over 400 billion barrels of oil and is not being tapped because Bush is in cahoots with Big Oil and they want to run the price up more before we go after this oil. Or, that we won’t drill because it will bring the price down.  People who send these to me are the very reasons Snopes exists. It’s like little Timmy getting pricked accidentally with the hypodermic needle and getting AIDS and will die but if you will send the e-mail to 500 of your closest friends you can save little Timmy. Of course, our friends will get 400 span notes a day and there is no little Timmy except in Lassie and he drowned when Lassie died. 

Like most things, there is a figment of truth in what this group says. There is probably 4 billion barrels of oil in this formation. But, it’s a tight formation and has yielded only 111 million barrels so far. However, at today’s prices and with new technology there is an opportunity to get more of this oil. Best estimates by knowledgeable geological experts put that number at another 400 million barrels. This explains why there is an investment group trying to build a new refinery in South Dakota. Pushing the envelope to an extreme it might yield 800 million to a billion barrels.

Statistics have been kept over time on the percentage of oil that is extracted vs. known oil deposits and that percentage is based on the type of formation that holds the oil. With this kind of formation and a known oil amount of 4 billion barrels, best case is probably the incremental 400 million barrels. Remember, we use 20 million barrels a day in the U.S. so every little bit helps. This would replace a month of imports. But, at $100 a barrel it’s nothing to scoff as an investor. $40 billion in rough numbers. 

It’s interesting to note the purveyors of the misinformation about the Bakken Formation say google it. Guess who is on to of the google list?  Pretty slick.

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