USGS: 7.4 Billion Barrels of Oil Possible in North Dakota, Montana

Posted: May 3, 2013

Written by

James MacPherson, Associated Press
Bakken shale

Government data released Tuesday show that 7.4 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from two massive shale formations spanning parts of the Dakotas and Montana, nearly double the amount previously estimated for the region.

The new number from the U.S. Geological Survey is based on data largely from oil company and state drilling records. But unlike the agency's 2008 estimate, it includes more than 3 billion barrels of oil believed held in the Three Forks formation, which is directly below the oil-rich Bakken formation.

Large-scale drilling in Three Forks didn't occur until after that earlier assessment, and the formation is now estimated to hold as much recoverable crude as the Bakken, according to the USGS. The agency calls the formations the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed — and some industry insiders think its potential is even stronger.

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