posted on May 01, 2013 14:33
The United States has double the amount of oil and three times the amount of natural gas than previously thought, stored deep under the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, according to new data the Obama administration released Tuesday.
Announcing the new data in a conference call, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also said the administration will release draft rules within weeks to regulate hydraulic fracturing, technology that has come under scrutiny for its environmental impact but that is essential to developing all of this energy.
The formations, called Bakken and Three Forks, span much of western North Dakota, the northern tip of South Dakota and the northeastern tip of Montana. The last time the United States Geological Survey assessed this area for its oil and gas reserves was in 2008. But that assessment did not include the Three Forks formation, which explains the substantial increase in the estimates. USGS estimates that these two formations together hold 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered but technically recoverable oil and 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The data add more hard evidence of America's energy boom, which was largely unimaginable just seven years ago. The estimates also underline the opportunities, including economic benefits and energy security, and the challenges, especially President Obama's commitment to tackle climate change, that come with a major fossil-fuel boom.
The reworked draft rules Jewell also announced would require stricter regulations on hydraulic-fracturing operations. She said the earlier version of the draft rules generated enough comments —roughly 100,000 — to prompt the administration to allow for a second round of public input.
The symbolic importance of these rules could have a greater impact than their substantive effect. The regulations apply to oil and gas production only on federal lands, a small portion of the total amount of oil and gas produced in the United States. According to the Interior Department, 11 percent of the natural gas produced in the country is on public lands, as is 5 percent of the oil.
The rules will provide a marker for states to implement their own regulations and for Congress to debate legislation that could create a federal standard.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who took credit for asking then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to update the recoverable oil reserve estimates in the Williston Basin in 2011, called the numbers “great news for North Dakota and great news for the nation.”
“It will further serve to enhance our state’s role as an energy powerhouse for the nation,” Hoeven said in a statement released just before the official numbers were announced. “This new USGS study further confirms and reinforces the fact that the Williston Basin is a sustainable, long-term play warranting strong private-sector investment for decades into the future.”