February 06, 2013
The Potential For Shale Oil Production

Heard about the big shale oil extraction boom in North Dakota? California has 4 times as much shale oil as North Dakota and that's over two thirds of total US shale oil.

So far, little of the crude is derived from the Monterey Shale, whose untapped deposits are estimated at 15.4 billion barrels, or more than four times the reserves of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

Shale oil is cited as a reason why Peak Oil is a bad theory. But consider: 15.4 billion barrels is less than half current world yearly oil consumption. The Monterey Shale is not that big.

Don't get me wrong. Shale oil is good news for the United States because it cuts imports and provides higher paying jobs. But shale oil is not going to delay Peak Oil for decades. We hear "drill baby drill" as a way to boost oil production in the United States. But already 64% of the world's oil rigs are operating in North America. The boom has limits.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 February 06 08:55 PM 

Matthew said at February 6, 2013 9:41 PM:

There is an estimated 3 *trillion* barrels worth of oil in shale deposits in the Green River Formation, which covers parts of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, up tp half of which is currently considered recoverable. There is a lot of oil yet left to exploit.

Engineer-Poet said at February 7, 2013 9:43 AM:

These small amounts of oil are coming up against cheap natural gas and falling battery prices and increasing performance; the Tesla Model X can have a 0-60 time as low as 4.4 seconds.

We're seeing LNG infrastructure being built out for heavy trucks.  NG buses are being purchased by the gross in California, and likely elsewhere too.  Once that diesel demand is destroyed it's not coming back for a decade, if ever.

Once the per-mile cost of ICEV creeps above PHEV, a dam is going to break and the electrification of the world vehicle fleet will proceed wholesale.  Sadly, this seems likely to happen last in the USA because of our cheap-fuel policy; the Opel Ampera is quite popular compared to the Volt, if I understand correct.

SOBL1 said at February 8, 2013 7:39 AM:

Bakken's higher edge estimates are around 30 bil bbl if some of the research is to be believed. The oil is there but the problem arises of extraction costs per bbl as well as the EROEI. Because the oil price is high, the US has a lot more oil rigs operating that are putting out roughly 200 bbl/day in oil vs. a high of 1500 bbl/day in 1999/2000. These rigs need a high brent/WTI price per barrell, which is ultimately a drag on the economy as a whole.

There is no silver bullet for replacing oil. Domestic drilling, conservation through the car fleet, telecommuting as well as moving as much of our transportation infrastructure to natgas is the way forward. Sure there are no natgas stations, but we can build them or, even better, there are already ways to have 'pumps' at your house if your house uses natgas.

Engineer-Poet said at February 8, 2013 8:42 AM:

The 50% and 90% projections from the USGS for the Bakken were 3.65 and 4.3 billion bbl, IIRC.

Sure there are no natgas stations, but we can build them or, even better, there are already ways to have 'pumps' at your house if your house uses natgas.
If Eaton can get its $500 CNG compressor to market, that and a SCUBA tank or two would be enough to co-fuel your daily commute with natural gas.  It doesn't even have to be 100% NG; 80% will get you from 25 MPG to 125 MPG of gasoline, or less than 6 gallons a month at 22 miles/day.

That would be a great thing for civil defense, because if people topped off every couple of weeks and could run 2 months without a refill, supply interruptions wouldn't be a big deal.  A 5-gallon can in reserve would carry you for weeks.  Mostly what you'd need is a way to drive the compressor from the vehicle in case the power went out.

infidel said at February 8, 2013 9:48 AM:

Sorry for going off-topic, delete this post if you must, but I was wondering if anybody can help me with finding something. The poster 'Engineer Dad' referred to a post by Razib on Gene exp blog that he didn't link to and here:


I asked for it but it's too late and everybody moved on from that thread. If anybody knows that post or Engineer Dad is reading this, I'd very much appreciate a link. Here's the post I'm referring to:

" New technologies in IT now allow software developers to acquire the roles occupied by software and hardware quality assurance workers (i.e. Robotframework, et all) and this makes it increasingly difficult for those in the 110-119 IQ range to compete. Couple this with government allowing 10,000s of foreign nationals work in the US (at artificially low wages) and foreign outsourcing, and you have employment flowing to the talented tenth (>120 IQ). Razib Khan spoke of this recently in Gene Expression. "

Randall Parker said at February 10, 2013 8:00 PM:


Using Google Search I tried to find what Engineer Dad was referring to. But I didn't find it. You could just go thru all of Razib's Discover Gene Expression posts and try to find it that way.

Ronald Brak said at February 11, 2013 5:19 PM:

In my opinion, converting cars to natural gas is an idea that stinks. Or rather, it will stink if not done properly. In Australia we do a lot of our vehicle kilometers with LPG and there is a lot of leakage of LPG. It is possible to tell as the LPG is stenchified as a safety measure. LPG is not a huge greenhouse danger, but natural gas is and I am concerned about the amount of leakage that will result. Leakage could be dramatically reduced with better engineering, but I'm worried we might not get better engineering. Done properly natural gas powered vehicles should be a lot better for the environment compared to gasoline, but not doing it properly might offset a considerable amount of that advantage.

Engineer-Poet said at February 13, 2013 8:05 PM:

NG is "stinkified" also, and the gear to detect the mercaptans used to do it is very, very sensitive.  The leakage problem is soluble, in principle.

NG carbureted into intake air in diesels would improve emissions and thermal efficiency, if I'm not mistaken.

xd said at February 14, 2013 9:27 AM:

The comparison of reserve size to total annual usage is a bad comparison. When talking about mitigating "peak oil" you're really talking about production replacement because peak oil is a problem of declining production.

To be clear: you don't need to replace an entire year's worth of oil to mitigate peak oil for a year: you need to replace *only* the percentage of production that is lost.

So... if production declines are 4% (which in the USA is about 0.04 x 20 million bpd = 800,000 pbd) then it's that 4% you need to replace to keep production levels stable, not 20 million barrels per day.

I see this argument all the time on peak oil sites which is one of the reasons I dismiss them.

Engineer-Poet said at February 14, 2013 1:37 PM:
if production declines are 4% (which in the USA is about 0.04 x 20 million bpd = 800,000 pbd) then it's that 4% you need to replace to keep production levels stable, not 20 million barrels per day.
You don't just need to replace that decline, you need to replace the decline in the capacity you added to replace previous declines.

The typical Bakken well production drops from 988 bbl/d initially to 467 bbl/d after a year to just 163 bbl/d (more than 80% decline) after 2 years.  Such wells must be drilled at a very high pace just to maintain production, and as work moves to the less-productive parts of the formation both the initial production and dropoff will be less and less worth drilling for.

Ronald Brak said at February 14, 2013 6:34 PM:

The newspapers here in Australia recently triumphed the discovery of tight oil in South Australia with the marvelously inexact figure of 3.5 billion to 2 trillion barrels. Currently we don't even know if it's worth exploiting. After all, 20 years ago the headline probably would have read, "Slightly Grubby Rocks Discovered." I guess the mining company is hoping there actually is a decent amount of oil there and has the fingers on one hand crossed that oil prices will go up and the fingers on the other hand crossed hoping large scale demand destruction won't happen any time soon.

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