The United States Geological Survey (USGS) issued the results of its most recent assessment of oil and gas resources in the Wolfcamp Shale and Bone Spring formations of the Delaware basin in western Texas and Eastern New Mexico. A total of 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids (NGL) of undiscovered, technically recoverable continuous resources were estimated.
Undiscovered technically recoverable reserves are reserves estimated based on geologic knowledge and known production, with current technology and industry practices. The USGS does not evaluate profitability of the resources.
This assessment is more than double the oil and seventeen times the natural gas estimates as the largest previous assessment of the Wolfcamp shale in the Permian’s separate Midland Basin issued 2 years ago, and close to seven times the amount of oil from the Bakken shale in North Dakota. Compared to the Marcellus shale, the USGS estimated a mean value of 84.2 Tcf of undiscovered technically recoverable reserves in 2011.
“In the 1980s, during my time in the petroleum industry, the Permian and similar mature basins were not considered viable for producing large new recoverable resources. Today, thanks to advances in technology, the Permian Basin continues to impress in terms of resource potential. The results of this most recent assessment and that of the Wolfcamp Formation in the Midland Basin in 2016 are our largest continuous oil and gas assessments ever released,” said Dr. Jim Reilly, USGS Director. “Knowing where these resources are located and how much exists is crucial to ensuring both our energy independence and energy dominance.”
“That’s the largest pool of oil and gas reserves ever announced by the USGS anywhere in the U.S., propelling the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas into the nation’s premier zone for energy production with some of the largest recoverable reserves in the world,” said New Mexico Oil and Gas Association Executive Director Ryan Flynn.
Currently, close to one third of the United States crude oil is coming from the Permian basin. The assessment confirms these amounts will continue to increase.
Total reserves could be larger, as the study only looks at the Wolfcamp and Bone Spring formations, just two of the many hydrocarbon-filled shale rock layers in the basin. The study defined eleven continuous assessment units (AUs) within the basin, six in the Wolfcamp shale and five in the Bone Spring formation. The report can be found on the USGS website.