North Dakota's energy jackpot just jumped

The USGS has hiked its oil and natural gas reserve estimates for the region, and some experts say the bonanza could be even bigger.

By Jonathan Berr May 2, 2013 8:40AM
Natural gas tanks at a site in North Dakota (© Rich LaSalle/The Image Bank/Getty Images)North Dakota, whose economy has grown faster than any other state's since the recession ended in 2009, holds as much as twice the oil and three times the natural gas that was previously estimated, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists estimate that the Bakken formation and the Three Forks formation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana contain an estimated mean of 7.4 billion barrels of "undiscovered, technically recoverable oil," about 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 0.53 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

Some experts, such as petroleum geologist John Harju, associate director for research with the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota, say the USGS estimates, which increased thanks to technology improvements, may be conservative. This is the first USGS survey to include both the Bakken and Three Forks formations.

"Like any of these USGS estimates, think of them as a mile marker that's well behind you in the rearview mirror," Harju told the Grand Forks Herald.

This discovery comes as President Barack Obama has been pushing the U.S. to lessen its dependence on foreign oil, efforts that his critics say don't go far enough, pointing to his opposition to expanding drilling on federal lands. Last year, Obama rejected a proposal to build the Keystone Pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, arguing that a deadline set by congressional Republicans didn't give him enough time to review it. The new USGS estimates may further embolden Keystone's backers.

Some cities in North Dakota, which ranks second to Texas in U.S. oil production, are already feeling the strain of the state's economic boom. As Bloomberg recently noted, Willliston is providing services to 38,000, more than double its official Census population of 16,000. Authorities there are helping people drawn to the area in search of work who are living in temporary camps, hotels and, in some cases, vehicles.

Anyone thinking of making the move to North Dakota should pack plenty of warm clothes. Winter temperatures average about 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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May 2, 2013 10:18AM
Obama could study the Keystone pipeline for the rest of his life and he still wouldn't have a clue.
May 2, 2013 9:24AM
We can find as much crude oil and natural gas that we want. It won't change prices at the pump. The Manipulators will just buy up everything up on cheap credit and hoard it away from the free markets. The Manipulators are in service to Big Oil. Until we realize the problems of manipulators, we won't solve our current problems of price gouging in crude.
May 2, 2013 12:44PM
Here's a compromise to the Keystone pipeline dilemma. Build it as far as North Dakota, and using the savings from not extending it farther south, build a refinery there in ND.
May 2, 2013 9:51AM

"we" do not own the oil.  the oil companies do.  and any cash paid to the government for that same oil, gets lost in the government's massive spending waste. 


it's great for north dakota to have the oil for their own jobs and state economy.  but don't spin this as more "usa energy independence" when we all will continue to be raped by the same oil companies

May 2, 2013 9:25AM

And then one day Jed was shooting at some food....

and up from the ground came a bubblin' crude....

oil that is......

black gold.....

Texas tea.

May 2, 2013 2:05PM
When Obama entered office Oil was $95 per barrel and gas was $1.80 per gallon.  Now oil is $90 per barrel and gas is $3.50 a gallon.  Can hardly wait for his health care program next. 
May 2, 2013 11:18AM
When I read articles like this, I can't help laughing at all those nutjobs who keep telling us we're dangerously close to running out of fossil fuels.
May 2, 2013 1:58PM
The USA has not built any new refineries in decades.   The best proposal would be to build the Keystone pipeline to the closest USA storage, pipeline, transportation hub, build one or two new refineries, crude storage, and refined products storage there.   Then send the refined products on their way through existing pipelines, building as little new pipeline as necessary.  The old refineries waste way too much energy, and are prone to catastrophic failures.   This idea would be time and safety expedient. 
May 2, 2013 10:00AM

Things to think about: Much of this "bonanza" will be shipped to over seas markets, mainly China(energy independence anyone?), and, the U.S. alone uses 20 million barrels of oil a day. Math long before 7.6 billion barrels are used up?

May 2, 2013 10:35AM
The oil has always been there but the cost of getting it out of the ground was prohibitive when oil was $16-$30 a barrel - back in the day. Since oil now hovers around $90 a barrel the higher costs to get North America oil out of the ground can be covered. So, the price of oil has to stay high until operations in the US are able to reduce production costs. That will happen, just will take some time.
May 2, 2013 10:01AM
The greatest enemy of employment in America is our own government (the president, congress, and the fed). The president is an idiot, congress hasn't got the balls to override this idiots veto, if the fed would keep the inflation rate between a deflationary 1% and 0% inflation the energy industry would be busting their behinds to get their product on the market at a higher price.
May 2, 2013 1:33PM
May 2, 2013 10:51AM
The main thrust of industry for the future is the natural gas engine system.  What is missing is the delivery system to the road vehicles and home power plants.  And ye who knows where to position themselves will capture profit.  As in where will the customer go to re-fill their fuel tank?  Thought-out the country large pipe lines already exist of NG which flow fuel from these drill fields to homes and industry .  Usually to air burn in home and industry heating systems or cooking operations.  And I see property for sale next to these pipe lines available to which refueling stations could be constructed.   And provide fuel to vehicles once manufactures build NG road fueled cars and trucks.  Some standardized fueling system similar to everyone's typical car and truck fuel port needs to be agreed upon.  I have seen enough naïve people still holding smoking cigarettes while handling a flowing gasoline pump while transferring fuel.  And until this new fuel is available to the general public most everyone will continue with purchases of gasoline's and diesels.  So there it is, the challenge of creating new.  I just think a light weight little gas turbine/generator/battery road car in definitely in this country's future.
May 2, 2013 1:33PM
If oil/gas prices reflected the gouging we allow the pharmaceutical & insurance industries to leach off of our government<< our tax $$$'s...we would be paying over $2,400 a gallon...
May 2, 2013 12:11PM

It feels great to have access to some oil/NG/etc., and not be held hostage by OPEC and others who want to manipulate our foreign policy because we need their oil.... although my question is:  Will such access lower prices at the pumps here at home?

I don't think it would.

Does such access lower the possibility of us going to war over oil in the future?  I hope so.

My answer to the math question: 370 days.

May 2, 2013 11:49AM
I can think of a number of crybabies I`d love to send to ND.Some I`d even pay their busfare.
May 2, 2013 3:31PM

I lived in ND for 28 years.  It is a great place to be from.  the work ethics of the locals are the finest anywhere.

I am proud to be from there.  Great news for those still in the state.

however, until you live through one of those harsh winters, you do not know the meaning of cold.  40 below with a 50 MPH wind will give you a lesson never to be forgotten....


I recall one winter season the temperature did not get above freezing for over 100 days/nights IN A ROW with lows in the mid MINUS 60 degree area.  on those coldest nights (even days) you can toss a glass of water into the air and watch the SNOW FALL.  water never hits the ground.


keep on keepin on my brothers/sisters

JusDav (currently 1000 miles south...hehe)



May 2, 2013 1:09PM
daily global demand for crude oil =~80 million barrels a day
estimated oil found =~7.4 billion barrels
7,400,000,000/80,000,000 = 92.5 days of oil in our global economy. So this HUGE find will only provide about a 3 month supply of crude oil.
Seems like we need to either find a lot more of these oil fields to tap or we need to start using some renewable energy sources to make what oil we do have last longer. While we cannot fully cut our dependence on fossil fuels we can effectively substitute what we can and continue using oil for things where there is no substitute
May 2, 2013 3:41PM
Crude Oil Prices(Nominal Dollars/Not Inflation Adjusted) at the New York Mercantile Exchange, Week Ending Close Value:
The price of a barrel of oil reached an all-time peak on July 4, of 2008 of $145.29 per barrel.
The price of a barrel of oil,  first week ending close value on Jan. 23, 2009, after Obama took office, was $46.47 per barrel.
The price of a barrel of oil for the most recent week ending close value on April 26, 2013 was $93.00 per barrel.
Average U.S.  Nationwide Retail Price for One Gallon of Regular Unleaded Gasoline:
According to EIA’s weekly survey, the U.S. average retail price of regular unleaded  gasoline reached an all-time peak in nominal dollars of $4.11 per gallon on July 7, 2008. On an inflation-adjusted basis (expressed in real April 2013 dollars using the Consumer Price Index) the highest monthly average price was $4.34 per gallon in June 2008.
According to EIA data, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the United States was $1.84 on Jan. 19, 2009--the day before Obama took office.
According to EIA data, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the United States was $3.52 on April 29, 2013
May 2, 2013 1:41PM
And yet they still collect subsidies from US tax payers ! Where are republicans bitching about that . Well lets add them to the republicans 47%  LOL <<< I mean that welfare , corporate welfare
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