USGS Finds Largest Shale Oil Field Ever in the U.S.

November 16, 2016

The U.S. Geological Survey Office released the results of its 2016 assessment of undiscovered continuous oil resources in the Wolfcamp shale layers yesterday.

Located in the 86,000 square mile Midland Basin portion of the west Texas Permian, the USGS found an estimated 20 billion barrels of oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of associated natural gas, and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

The estimate of continuous oil in the Midland Basin Wolfcamp shale assessment is nearly three times larger than that of the 2013 USGS Bakken-Three Forks resource assessment, making this the largest estimated continuous oil accumulation that USGS has assessed in the United States to date.

Although the USGS has assessed oil and gas resources in the Permian Basin province, this is the first assessment of continuous resources in the Wolfcamp shale in the Midland Basin portion of the Permian.

 “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.”

Wolfcamp shale, a continuous oil resources, is found in three different horizontal layers, each with its own composition and up to 1,200 feet thick. The oil and gas is dispersed throughout the geologic formation rather than existing as separate localized pockets such as those in conventional accumulations. Continuous resources commonly require special technical drilling and recovery methods, such as hydraulic fracturing.

USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of onshore lands and offshore state waters. The USGS Wolfcamp shale assessment was undertaken as part of a nationwide project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol.

The new assessment of the Wolfcamp shale is available here.

For more information about Wolfcamp shale, please visit the Wolfcamp Shale Overview here: