March 31, 2008

Research on Bakken Formation’s Oil Reserves Nearly Completed

By Schuster, Ryan

The U.S. Geological Survey is nearing completion of a research project that will attempt to quantify how much oil is contained in the Bakken shales formation and how much of it is recoverable.

The study is expected to be completed by late April, according to Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who, along with other state officials, pushed the federal agency to finish the research started by scientist Leigh Price.

Billion barrels

Price estimated the Bakken formation may hold as many as 900 billion barrels of oil. But Price died in 2000 before the study could be published or peer reviewed.

Other estimates of the Bakken formation's oil reserves have pegged the number at closer to 200 billion or 300 billion barrels.

Dorgan said Thursday during a stop in Grand Forks that completing the survey is important to North Dakota. The Bakken formation stretches across western and central North Dakota, eastern Montana, southern Saskatchewan and part of northwestern South Dakota.

"I think it's going to show a very substantial recoverable reserve of oil," Dorgan said. "It will be important as a signal to the rest of the world what we have here."

Dorgan optimistic

Dorgan said the U.S. Geological Survey began work on finishing Price's work about a year and a half ago.

He said he is optimistic that improvements in technology will lead to a substantial increase in how much of the oil in the formation will be able to be recovered.

Dorgan said the study's findings will only increase the oil boom that the western part of the state currently is experiencing.

"The oil boom is real and it's going to be real significant" Dorgan said.

During a stop at the International Crop Expo on Thursday in the Alerus Center, Dorgan questioned why the Department of Energy continues to put aside 50.000 to 60,000 barrels of crude oil in the nearly-full strategic petroleum reserve every day in light of high oil and gas prices.

"When oil is $90 to $100 a barrel, we shouldn't be taking it out of the supply pipeline and sticking it underground," Dorgan said. "It is increasing prices. I think it's absolutely nuts to be doing this with the current price of oil."

Dorgan said it is important to maintain the strategic petroleum reserve, but he said the reserve is about 97 percent full and there is no reason to continue filling it when oil and gas prices are so high.

Dorgan also said that high oil and gas prices affect farmers and North Dakotans more than some, citing research that showed North Dakota residents use twice as much gas per person as New York residents.

Copyright Grand Forks Herald Inc. Feb 22, 2008

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