The Bakken shale is a huge expanse of oil-bearing rock that lies underneath Northern Dakota and Montana. Oil production in the Bakken has grown from just 60,000 barrels per day (BPD) five years ago, to 500,000 bpd now. It is predicted that the formation holds more than 24 billion barrels of oil, and that given enough rigs it could produce more than a million bpd by 2020 and continue that level of production for half a century.
The Bakken shale play is one of the biggest in the US, but is absolutely dwarfed by a shale play in Russia. The Bazhenov is located in Western Siberia, and according to Oswals Clint, Sanford Bernstein’s lead international oil analyst, it “covers 2.3 million square kilometers or 570 million acres, which is the size of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico combined;” an area 80 times bigger than the Bakken.
The region which is covered by the Bazhenov has many cracks and fractures which could make its oil flow more readily, and therefore production much cheaper. A couple of test wells have been drilled in the region which operated at 400 bpd; the same as an average Bakken well.
News of the Bazhenov may be new to many of us, but geologists have actually been studying it for at least 20 years, however it is only in the last few years that the technology and expertise necessary to drill the oil has been developed.
ExxonMobil and Statoil have agreed to start joint venture operations in the region with the Russian, state-owned Rosneft in an attempt to secure access to the Bazhenov. Exxon made a recent statement which confirmed the agreement “to jointly develop tight oil production technologies in Western Siberia.”
Oswald Clint warned that oil companies will face challenges of drilling in the region as during the summer the weather in Siberia warms and softens the ground enough to prevent drilling. Although if 300 rigs can be quickly deployed he believes that by 2020 the Bazhenov play could be producing one million bpd.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com