New figures released by the Obama administration suggest that the United States has twice the previously announced amount of oil and three times the amount of natural gas under the states of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The data was made public by interior secretary Sally Jewell in a conference call, the National Journal reported.
According to Jewell, draft rules on hydraulic fracturing regulation will be released over the next few weeks, as the previous draft generated about 100,000 comments — sufficient to cause the administration to allow another round of public input. While the technology also known as fracking has undoubtedly facilitated the U.S. natural gas boom, it has also sparked controversy, since it has been linked to earthquakes and water pollution. Jewell noted that the regulation was necessary, so that the country could continue to develop the resources it had and to reduce its energy dependence of foreign oil.
The formations covering the bigger part of North Dakota, the northern part of South Dakota and the northeastern tip of Montana are known as Bakken and Three Forks. Previous estimates of the deposits there were made by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 2008. However, the National Journal said that those assessments did not include Three Forks, which explains the significant differences in oil and natural gas estimates. The new estimates were requested by Sen. John Hoeven from North Dakota in 2011 and suggest that the two formations hold a combined reserve of 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered but recoverable oil and 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The latest data on state reserves is great news for North Dakota and the entire country, Hoeven said. It highlights the role of the state as an energy hub for the United States and provides further opportunities for the state to grow economically, he added. North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, at 3.3 percent, the news source stated.
It is important to note that these estimates do not necessarily mean that the entire amount of oil and natural gas is recoverable or could be developed immediately. There are various factors that could play a role in the development of these deposits, including prices and environmental regulations. Despite that, the new estimates are yet more good news for the domestic oil and gas industry, which has changed beyond recognition over the past seven years. What these estimates actually show is the opportunity for economic benefits and energy security, as well as the environmental benefits of replacing fossil fuels with more environmentally friendly natural gas, experts commented.
Recently there has been an overall drop in oil consumption nationwide and at present imported oil accounts for less than 40 percent of the total oil consumed in the country, Jewell said.