'Largest' Shale Oil Reserve Discovered in Texas

Texas's Barnett Shale is estimated to hold 172 million barrels of shale oil and 176 million barrels of natural gas liquids, twice as much natural gas and oil as expected, according to a December study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

With an estimated 20 billion barrels (Bbbl) of technically recoverable oil, the Wolfcamp's multiple intervals hold potentially more oil than Brazil, Algeria or Mexico, the agency said November 15.

Oil explorers have been flocking to the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico to tap deposits so rich that they generate profits despite the 2 1/2-year slump in crude prices. Based on the analysis, the Wolfcamp - in the Midland sub-basin only - is almost three times larger than the Bakken-Three Forks resource, based on an assessment in 2013 by USGS.

USGS did not evaluate whether it was profitable to produce the oil or gas in the play, but the US Energy Information Administration said Monday the Permian was the only one of the most prolific oil production areas which is still seeing significant growth.

The USGS says all 20 billion barrels of oil are "technically recoverable", meaning the oil could be brought to the surface "using now available technology and industry practices".

U.S. Geological Survey officials said this week they have found what is quite possibly the largest reserves of untapped oil ever to be found in the state's Permian Basin.

The Permian has been a source of oil since crude was discovered in the 1920s.

Oil production in the region has spiked drastically since early 2015, while production in other areas has fallen due to low oil prices. The estimated amount of oil alone would supply all US needs for about three years.

At present prices, 20 billion barrels of oil would be worth nearly $900 billion. According to the USGS team, the Wolfcamp is now the titleholder of the largest ever assessed resource.

His agency makes estimates of undiscovered, technically recoverable resources or oil that could be extracted with modern technology. Over 3,000 horizontal wells have already been drilled at Wolfcamp.

While the Wolfcamp shale extends into the Delaware Basin portion of the Permian Basin province, the area was not included in the USGS assessment.

The term "continuous oil" refers to unconventional formations like shale, in which the oil exists throughout the formation and not in discrete pools.

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