Bakken Shale

Montana's growth in oil and natural gas production has been due to the Bakken Shale formation. 

The Bakken Shale formation is a rich oil and natural gas play located within the Williston Basin that extends for 200,000 square miles, covering parts of Montana, North Dakota, and the Saskatchewan province of Canada. 

Bakken-Lodgepole Total Petroleum System (TPS) (in blue)

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), as of 2008, the Bakken Shale was estimated to have an estimated 3 to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil (SOURCE: USGS).  This estimate is larger than all other current USGS oil assessments of the lower 48 states, and is the largest "continuous" oil accumulation ever assessed by the USGS. Further, the Bakken Shale is estimated to hold approximately 1.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

These estimates are expected to increase, due to technological advances in production, such as Hydraulic Fracturing.

Montana's Elm Coulee Oil Field, located in Richland County, is the site of the greatest Bakken Shale oil production.  Production in this field began in 2000 and average 53,000 barrels per day in 2007. 

The most recent find in Bakken Shale region is the Three Forks Formation, which underlies the Bakken and separted by the Sanish Formation.  The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the production from the Bakken/Three Forks formations to grow from 350,000 barrels per day to 700,000 barrels per day in the next 4 to 7 years (SOURCE: DOE).

ND ThreeForksSanish

American Association of Petroleum Geologists

“The Sanish is a very thin dolomitic sandstone that occurs right on the very top of the Three Forks,” he said. “There are some people who want to include that as part of the Bakken – it’s very thin, and it’s not present everywhere.” 

It is evident that Montana holds rich stores of oil and natural gas that can increase America's energy and economic security, and access to these natural resources will enable the industry to continue to locate sources to wean our dependence on sources of energy from those who do not share our interest.

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