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Published April 05, 2011, 07:57 AM

Hoeven calls for new study of Williston Basin oil

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Sen. John Hoeven wants the U.S. Geological Survey to reevaluate the amount of recoverable oil in the Williston Basin, saying a new assessment would attract more investment and infrastructure in the state's oil patch.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Sen. John Hoeven wants the U.S. Geological Survey to reevaluate the amount of recoverable oil in the Williston Basin, saying a new assessment would attract more investment and infrastructure in the state's oil patch.

The North Dakota Republican said he will meet with USGS officials on April 28 in Bismarck to push for the study. Hoeven said he has asked Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to support a new assessment.

"There is a strong feeling in the oil patch that the recoverable reserves are substantially greater that what has been shown by the USGS," Hoeven said Tuesday. "This is not just about (oil) industry development. It will really help private investment, with housing, stores and restaurants.

"By showing substantially larger recoverable reserves, it will provide more certainty and encourage that private investment," Hoeven said.

Rich Pollastro, a USGS geologist in Denver, said the agency would meet with oil producers and state officials in Bismarck to review new data.

In 2008, the USGS estimated 200 million barrels of oil can be recovered in the Williston Basin in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. That compares with a 1995 estimate of 150 million barrels that could be recovered from the basin using technology at that time.

The USGS said newly identified recoverable oil in the Williston Basin is mainly in North Dakota and Montana. South Dakota had only a negligible amount.

The estimate for the Williston Basin was separate from a Geological Survey assessment on the Bakken shale formation done earlier in 2008. The USGS has estimated up to 4.3 billion barrels of oil can be recovered from the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana by using current technology.

A state study released after the USGS study found a near identical assessment as the federal report. The federal report found up to 2.6 billion barrels of Bakken crude could be recovered in North Dakota, compared with the state's estimate of 2.1 billion barrels.

The state has since bumped its estimate to about 11 billion barrels of oil, based on drilling success and current production rates.

Pollastro said it's unclear whether a new study would find additional recoverable reserves.

"There will certainly be a lot of new information but I don't know if it will change the assessment," he said. "I still believe in what we did three years ago and I don't believe it has changed that radically."

The Bakken formation encompasses some 25,000 square miles within the Williston Basin. About two-thirds of the acreage is in western North Dakota, where the oil is trapped in a thin layer of dense rock nearly two miles beneath the surface.

The Geological Survey has called the Bakken formation the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed.

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