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USGS Just Discovered the Biggest Shale Oil Field in America

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On Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced that it has discovered the biggest deposit of untapped oil in the United States, located in the Wolfcamp shale formation in the Midland Basin portion of Texas’ Permian Basin.

Wolfcamp has an estimated average of 20 billion barrels of oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of associated natural gas, and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids there for the taking. To put this into perspective, according to USGS, the Prudhoe Bay formation on the North Slope of Alaska—the largest producing oil field in North America to date—has only produced roughly 12 billion barrels of oil in the past 43 years. And the East Texas Field, which is the biggest producing oil field in the lower 48 states, has produced just over 7 billion barrels of oil since the 1930s.

In other words, the magnitude of this oil discovery is incredible. And based on current oil prices, the newly found untapped oil is worth almost $900 billion.

Midland Basin Map, courtesy of USGS

“The fact that this is the largest assessment of continuous oil we have ever done just goes to show that, even in areas that have produced billions of barrels of oil, there is still the potential to find billions more,” said Walter Guidroz, program coordinator for the USGS Energy Resources Program.

“Changes in technology and industry practices can have significant effects on what resources are technically recoverable, and that’s why we continue to perform resource assessments throughout the United States and the world,” Guidroz continues.

USGS notes that over 3,000 horizontal oil wells have already been drilled and finished in the Wolfcamp section of the Midland Basin. According to Bloomberg, Wolfcamp has been one of the primary targets for shale drillers like ConocoPhillips (COP - Free Report) and Diamondback Energy Inc. (FANG - Free Report) in recent years, as intensive drilling and fracturing techniques, or fracking, became more commonly used.

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