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Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the…

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The Real Implications Of The New Permian Estimates

oil rig

This week the United States Geological Survey (USGS) announced a groundbreaking oil and gas discovery in West Texas’ Permian Basin. According to the organization’s recent press release, a whopping 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids are now believed to lie untapped in the Wolfcamp Shale and overlying Bone Spring Formation area of Texas and New Mexico’s Permian Basin.

Major players in the energy industry already have a significant presence in Wolfcamp and Bone Spring, including Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Pioneer Natural Resources Co. It was already well known and well documented that these fields were remarkably fertile grounds for oil extraction, but the jaw-dropping extent of the new figures released this week by the USGS has made the massive crude and shale reserves of the Permian Basin freshly headline-worthy. The figures in this week’s press release are in fact, in the case of Wolfcamp Shale, more than double the previous resource assessment.

(Click to enlarge)

Source: USGS

The USGS assessed the area more than two years ago in 2016, and has officially determined that it contained the largest estimated quantity of continuous oil in the entire United States. "Christmas came a few weeks early this year," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in response to these momentous figures. "American strength flows from American energy, and as it turns out, we have a lot of American energy. 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." Related: Is This The Next Big Petrochemical Hub In The U.S.?

The USGS qualifies the figures of their massive discovery as consisting of undiscovered, technically recoverable resources, which they define as, "those [resources] that are estimated to exist based on geologic knowledge and already established production, while technically recoverable resources are those that can be produced using currently available technology and industry practices. Whether or not it is profitable to produce these resources has not been evaluated."

The continued productivity and massive untapped resources present in the Permian Basin are particularly vital to the United States energy industry, in a time that most shale wells are in steep decline after years of record booms and cheap crude-flooded markets. Now, in addition to this stunning discovery from the USGS, there is even further hope that there are still additional technically recoverable resources lying in wait, yet to be discovered.

Dr. Jim Reilly, the Director of USGS, a facet of the U.S. Department of Interior, highlighted how remarkable the discovery was in the larger context of the industry. “In the 1980’s, during my time in the petroleum industry, the Permian and similar mature basins were not considered viable for producing large new recoverable resources. Today, thanks to advances in technology, the Permian Basin continues to impress in terms of resource potential. The results of this most recent assessment and that of the Wolfcamp Formation in the Midland Basin in 2016 are our largest continuous oil and gas assessments ever released.” Reilly stressed, “Knowing where these resources are located and how much exists is crucial to ensuring both our energy independence and energy dominance.”

Additionally, these discoveries come at a particularly opportune time for West Texas, as a major injection of funding has just been provided toward infrastructure the West Texas area via a federal grant supported by U.S. Senator John Cornyn. The grant, which comes from a program led by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (B.U.I.L.D.) will direct money to infrastructure projects in Winkler, Glasscock and Reagan Counties.

The recent discovery and continued investment in the Permian Basin shows that the industry continues to be bullish in West Texas, and with good reason, despite the volatility of the oil industry as a whole. While other major fields continue to decline in production, the Permian Basin has managed to stay above the fray and certainly shows no sign of slowing.


By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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  • Kay Uwe Böhm on December 09 2018 said:
    Energy problem is just artificial from blocking cheap atomic power, efficient turbines and efficient thermal solar power also for CNG out of H2O+CO2.
    Eternal 1 Cent-€/kWh for all in world.

    EPR not efficient with only 1.6GWe from 4.5GWth over 10 years build up time over 10 billion $ huge & stupid !

    Glas green houses cooled delivering energy not needing water enough in all year hot countries and RBN Th pebble bed HTR zero risk all cases and cheap
    with new RBN white diamond cubic boron nitride isotopes B-11 and N-15 latest lucky lowest neutron absorption
    so only ThO2 30 years pebble runtime and endstorage just baked as powder in BN QuadTriso not needed hard up to 2800°C unburnable and insoluble etc.

    Turbines today unbelievable wasting nonsense condensing all steam for steaming again instead back with dense steam using CF compressor cooling all of turbine therm. isolated only electricity out and CO2 steam pressure 5.73MPa 20°C already so alsi heat of glas green house high at 2. CF compressor for condensing out H2O
    cooled with CO2 for turbines in india
    etc. no waiting for rain and no drought and aircon for free and cheap power.
  • Victor Edwards on December 10 2018 said:
    I think the utter glee seen here about a dying industry is stunning. I do not have doubt that there is more oil; what I have doubts about is the future of the oil industry. I personally think it is on its way out and alternatives are taking over much sooner than expected [the recent decision of GM to stop making gas-hog ICEs and move to increase production of EVs.

    Yes, I know that the third world will continue to use oil and ruin our planet, but I think that market will peter out as soon as the world recognizes the benefits and lower costs of solar, wind and other alternative power sources.

    Just sayin'...
  • citymoments on December 10 2018 said:
    With all due respects to the author, I would like to ask her a simple question as follows:

    WTI at $53 a barrel, almost all shale producers have no positive cash flow, pumping oil at this price, USA is exporting shale oil below its production cost, is this the USA energy dominance she is intending to promote? What is important is not how much oil under the ground but how much is the cost to extract those oil you are talking about? What the mainstream is talking about is purely propaganda, no one is talking about how much loss all those shale producers made by pumping so much oil, most of their share prices dropped more than 30% last 12 months while USA claims she has become the largest oil producer in the world, it is so stupid, nothing but burning OPM (other people money).
  • JustMeNS on December 10 2018 said:
    Very true citymoments. The USGS states it is TECHNICALLY recoverable which means with current technology. It doesn't mention anything about economical recovery. As shown in the current q32018 filings, only five companies are cash positive with the higher oil prices. At current prices that will be even less.
  • Grover on December 10 2018 said:
    @Victor Edwards "Yes, I know that the third world will continue to use oil and ruin our planet, but I think that market will peter out as soon as the world recognizes the benefits and lower costs of solar, wind and other alternative power sources.

    Just sayin..."

    After your first world has ruined our planet, you have absolutely no rights to stop anyone else.

    And remember that renewable revolution is happening in your so called "third world" countries...

    Absolutely disgusting comment you have written here!!!!
    Just sayin....
  • Lovenit on December 11 2018 said:
    Great news, this will:

    - Keep the economic engine of the U.S. roaring for years. Cheap energy, from local resources lessens our dependance on others. Cheap energy and oil are the reason the U.S. became a world power in the first place. (thank you Pennsylvania).
    - Gives us some bargaining power in the middle east where U.S. policy has often been a failure.
    - Keeps producers like Russia in a competitive environment that puts a check in their global power and ability to escape sanctions and other tools put in place to prevent their bad behavior.
    - Gives solar and wind some time to catch up since Jane Fonda, Fukushima and Chernobyl have made the American public fear nuclear like a monster hiding under their bed.
    - Give the battery industry time to produce technologies that let us take advantage of solar and wind.

  • Lee James on December 12 2018 said:
    Good reader discussion here about the apparent mixed blessing of Permian crude reserves.

    Oil supply at what social and financial cost, and what level of volatility? It's the question that has always dogged oil, but is today steadily nipping the heels of an industry chasing thinly distributed reserves. We're down deep into the source rock of petroleum. In contrast, "bonanza oil was easily tapped and was about whole reservoirs of crude.

    Today's reserves do make you wonder about future prospects. Might be that we need to transition and that our new energy will be cleaner.
  • Steve Bull on December 13 2018 said:
    With all due respect to those cheerleading this 'discovery', consider the caveat stated in the article: "...The USGS qualifies the figures of their massive discovery as consisting of undiscovered, technically recoverable resources..."
    Such estimates are prone to revision and usually such revisions are significantly reduced from the headline-grabbing, invest-now, market-igniting initial estimates.
    There is a reason humans have created the saying 'Don't count your chickens before they're hatched'; one that it seems many have forgotten, perhaps to help reduce the cognitive dissonance created from the reality that the infinite growth economy we have developed is doomed on a finite planet.
  • Rblinkenhoger on December 14 2018 said:
    This area is truly a great find for the oil producers! I own minerals in Delaware basin and receive royalty under 3 wells in the lower Wolfcamp which are wonderful producers. Sure, they have declined after the first 2 years but have flatlined the last 3 years at really nice rates. Cimarex just drilled an upper Wolfcamp (Vagrant 3H) in the section next to me and that well has produced 860,000 barrels of oil and over 6,000,000 MCF in a little over a year in a half!!! It's still producing over 800 BBLS a day 6,000 MFC a day! With production like this you don't need a $60 oil market to make things work for everyone including the mineral estate! Look for cheap gasoline for a long time because which is good for the US!

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