The Permian Basin’s Wolfcamp and Bone Spring formations in West Texas and New Mexico hold the most potential oil and gas resources ever assessed, the U.S. Interior Department said Thursday.
The region in the Permian’s western Delaware Basin holds more than twice as much oil as the largest previous assessment – the Wolfcamp shale in the Permian’s separate Midland Basin southeast of Midland. That study was completed two years ago.
To put the new results into perspective, the Delaware Basin’s Wolfcamp and Bone Spring plays would hold almost seven times as much oil as North Dakota’s Bakken shale.
The Wolfcamp shale and overlying Bone Spring in the Permian’s booming Delaware Basin hold an estimate 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s new assessment.
Interior Secretary and oil and gas advocate Ryan Zinke said the news is an early Christmas present for the energy sector.
“American strength flows from American energy, and as it turns out, we have a lot of American energy,” Zinke said. “Before this assessment came down, I was bullish on oil and gas production in the United States. Now, I know for a fact that American energy dominance is within our grasp as a nation.”
Much of the new activity in the Permian is in the Delaware’s Wolfcamp in Loving, Winkler, Reeves, Culberson and Ward counties on the Texas side, and primarily Eddy and Lea counties in New Mexico.
The U.S. is producing record volumes of oil and gas, and nearly one-third of the nation’s total crude oil volumes are coming from the Permian. Those amounts are continuing to grow.
An older basin, the Permian has become the center of the oil and gas world in recent years through the combination of horizontal drilling techniques and modern hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technologies.
The study is based on undiscovered oil and gas that’s considered technically recoverable based on these modern extraction methods. That’s different from the proven reserves that oil companies list on their budgets after they drill exploratory wells and study the reservoirs.