The Wolfcamp Shale geologic formation in the Midland area also contains an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.6 billion barrels of natural-gas liquids, the agency said in a release.
The discovery is nearly three times larger than the shale oil found in 2013 in the Bakken and Three Forks formations in the Dakotas and Montana, said Chris Schenk, a Denver-based research geologist for the agency.
The Wolfcamp Shale is part of the sweeping and energy-rich Permian Basin, which includes a series of basins and other geologic formations in West Texas and southern New Mexico. It’s one of the most productive oil and gas regions in the United States.
Ken Medlock, director of an energy-studies program at Rice University in Houston, said it seems “likely that we’re seeing the birth of a new Permian Basin.” The advent of horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other advancements will allow for the removal of shale oil at a volume that will make the basin “the dominant onshore platform for oil production,” he said.
Mr. Schenk said it’s been known for years that the region could yield new bountiful oil production, but it took the U.S. Geological Survey time to assess the Wolfcamp Shale and estimate the volume of that production.
“We think the potential is there for the future and it’s not going to be realized overnight,” he said.
The release issued by the Geological Survey on Tuesday hints at the resurgence the oil and gas industry likely will see in Texas in the coming years following a downturn during which energy prices tumbled and tens of thousands of jobs were lost.
Vast shale find in West Texas set to revive Permian Basin - The Globe and Mail