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Arthur Berman

Arthur Berman

Arthur E. Berman is a petroleum geologist with 36 years of oil and gas industry experience. He is an expert on U.S. shale plays and…

More Info

Only 1 Percent Of Bakken Shale Is Profitable At These Prices

Only 1 Percent Of Bakken Shale Is Profitable At These Prices

Only 1 percent of the Bakken Play area is commercial at current oil prices based on my analysis that follows.

Only 4 percent of horizontal wells drilled since 2000 meet the EUR (estimated ultimate recovery) threshold needed to break even at current oil prices, drilling and completion, and operating costs.

The leading producing companies evaluated in this study are losing $11 to $38 on each barrel of oil that they produce, the very definition of waste.

Although NYMEX prices are about $46 per barrel, realized wellhead prices in the Bakken are only $30 per barrel according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. At that price, approximately 125,000 acres of the drilled play area of 10,500,000 acres is commercial (green areas in Figure 1). Related: North Dakota No Longer Attractive For Drillers Or Refiners

Figure 1. Bakken Shale Play commercial area map at $30 per barrel wellhead price. Contours are in barrels of oil estimated ultimate recovery. Contour interval = 200,000 barrels of oil. Source: Drilling Info, North Dakota Department of Natural Resources & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

(click image to enlarge)

The break-even per-well EUR is 700,000 barrels at a $30 oil price. The underlying economic assumptions are shown in Table 1. Related: New Oil Price Reality Spells Doom And Gloom For These Gulf States

Table 1. Economic assumptions and outcomes used to determine the Bakken $30 per barrel commercial area shown in Figure 1. Source: Company presentations and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

(click image to enlarge)

There has been much debate about the break-even price for tight oil plays in the U.S. This discussion is largely meaningless because there is no single break-even price for any play.

By Art Berman for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • brad on November 07 2015 said:
    You cannot drill a HZ well today and make a profit at these low energy prices
  • Vlad on December 13 2015 said:
    ND lowered their severance rate to 10% in April, which takes effect January 1, 2016. Some other numbers and assumptions are also incorrect, not taking into account the drastic drop in drilling/operating expenses for companies consolidating in the Core of the Bakken Play.

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