In what seems to becoming a weekly occurrence, the oil industry just produced another stunning example of its ability to find new reserves in the 21st century. A new assessment of the so-called “Wolfcamp shale” formation near Midland, Texas estimates that the region contains some 20 billion barrels of crude and another 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. Take that, “peak oil” doomsayers. The Texas Tribune reports:
[The Wolfcamp shale estimation is] three times higher than the amount of recoverable crude the agency found in the Bakken-Three Forks region in the upper midwest in 2013, making it “the largest estimated continuous oil accumulation that USGS has assessed in the United States to date,” according to a statement.
“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.
The fact that the USGS is now—in 2016—making its largest-ever estimate of a single oil resource speaks volumes about the state of American energy security, and the speed at which our country’s oil landscape has changed over the past decade as a result of the shale revolution. To be clear, without technological advances like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling—two practices that have only been deployed en masse over the past eight years or so—we wouldn’t be counting these 20 billion barrels of crude as recoverable.
While OPEC struggles to stay afloat in a market where crude struggles to break $50 per barrel, U.S. shale producers are surprising analysts and petrostates alike with their ability to keep the oil flowing at these bargain prices. This resiliency can largely be put down to their relentlessly innovative spirit and the dogged pursuit of technological advances to help streamline drilling processes and bring breakeven costs down. But new technologies aren’t just keeping shale firms afloat, they’re also uncovering new reserves of oil and gas that will continue to buoy America’s position as a major energy supplier for years to come.