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Bakken, Three Forks Has More Oil Than 2008 Estimate: USGS

Oil resources in shale formations of North Dakota, Montana and nearby states are 7.4 billion barrels, U.S. government researchers said, doubling an estimate for the region made five years ago.

The U.S. Geological Survey said today the resources can be extracted using current technology and exclude those oil-shale reserves that have already been tapped or listed by industry. In 2008, the agency estimated total oil in the Bakken formation, which is within the region assessed in today’s report, was 3 billion to 4.3 billion barrels.

The agency for the first time studied the Three Forks formation, which is estimated to include 3.73 billion barrels, exceeding the recoverable oil in the Bakken. Five years ago, Three Forks, which lies further underground than the Bakken, was considered out of reach, the agency said.

“The Three Forks is up and coming,” Brenda Pierce, the USGS energy resources program coordinator, told reporters on a conference call. The formation “was the big unknown.”

Oil production in North Dakota is booming, making that state the second-largest U.S. producer after Texas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Bakken production rose 39 percent from a year earlier to 715,000 barrels of oil a day in this year’s fourth quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Industries.

About 450 million barrels of oil have been produced from the area since 2008, the geological survey said in its report.

Shale gas and shale oil is produced by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are injected underground to break apart rock formations and free the trapped fuel.

The Three Forks area covers about the same geographic area as the Bakken, which extends through much of North Dakota, northeast Montana and parts of South Dakota.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at mdrajem@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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