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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Permian Oil Reserves May Be Twice As Big As We Thought

The U.S. Geological Survey has revised the technically recoverable reserves in the Wolfcamp Basin, in the Permian shale play, to 46.3 billion barrels of crude and 281 trillion cu ft of natural gas. That’s up from 20 billion barrels of crude and 16 trillion cu ft of gas in recoverable reserves in late 2016.

It’s worth noting, however, the new estimate also includes the Bone Spring formation that makes up part of the Delaware Basin in the Permian. This is the first time this formation is included in the USGS oil and gas reserves assessment.

Recoverable reserves are calculated based not just on exploration results and geology but also on the price level that makes the oil and gas commercially viable for extraction. The USGS carried out its revision earlier this year, so it must have reflected the improvement in oil prices, notably West Texas Intermediate that has now largely disappeared, sparking worry about the sustainability of production growth, which has been steady throughout the year.

The national total hit 11.7 million bpd last month, an all-time high and also the highest in the world and the Permian was the major driver behind this growth. It is the shale play that produces the most oil and also boasts the fastest rate of production growth: in November the Permian yielded 3.63 million bpd of crude and the Energy Information Administration expects this to rise further to 3.695 million bpd this month.

So, the Permian is already a star, but now it will shine more brightly. The USGS numbers mean it is the largest single reservoir of oil and gas in the United States and one of the largest on a global scale. Related: U.S. Becomes Net Oil Exporter For First Time In 75 Years

The Albuquerque Journal quoted the head of the state’s Oil and Gas Association as saying “Even for someone who understands the resources and potential of the Permian Basin, I can’t help but be surprised by the sheer enormity of what the USGS has reported. Ryan Flynn added “The Permian resources shared by New Mexico and Texas make this area one of the most important places in the world in terms of oil production.”

While this is true, this rush to the Permian, aptly dubbed Permania, has led to some problems, namely price discounts as there are not enough pipelines to get the product to refiners and export markets. However, these problems are being addressed already and the Permania looks like it will only intensify unless prices slump below US$50 a barrel for WTI.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com


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Leave a comment
  • Lee James on December 07 2018 said:
    I love to see the U.S. as close as possible to being self-sufficient in oil supply. That's in the near term. In the long run, I find it a little ironic and a lot disturbing that the greatest mass die-off of life on Earth is what gave us Permian formation energy.

    Today, to put it crassly, we're like a swarm of mosquitoes drilling and sucking.

    It seems that we do not think twice about burning up simple life forms created during a pre-dinosaur and mammalian age that nevertheless produced large animals and trees. With mas extinction, these suddenly became food for fungi.

    Our fossil energy was created over a span of millions of years. In comparison, demise of the resource looks to be measured in just a few hundred years.
  • David Jones on December 08 2018 said:
    They can revise all they want, that will not solve the yield issues. Just additional junk resources that will probably be tapped and drained to the point of a minor drip within a few years. Production gains through rampant additional drilling and exhaustion of sweet spot reserves, assuming that this is what is happening, is not much to boast about in my opinion. Especially if this is the energy resource form everyone is expecting to drive the industry forward.
  • Tim Farnham on December 08 2018 said:
    USGS numbers are based on "technically recoverable" reserves, which are different from what most people and companies think of as reserves. Technically recoverable reserves have nothing to do with price and refer to reserves that could be produced without regard to cost; the only limiter is technology. To suggest the USGS revised it's reserve estimates for the Permian because of changes in the oil price is incorrect. Price has nothing to do with it. This is the methodology the USGS has used for decades.
  • MartinX on December 11 2018 said:
    Not really relevant, but it would be nice if the head of Albuquerque’s Oil and Gas Association, Ryan Flynn, used the word "enormity" correctly. It doesn't mean "enormousness".
  • Bruce Oksol on December 12 2018 said:
    In fact it does. Look at third meaning: enormity means huge.
  • Bill Simpson on December 14 2018 said:
    The reserves were long known. But until horizontal drilling, along with advances in fracking came along, there was no way to profitably exploit them. Ditto in the Dakota area. They knew oil was down there for decades, but nobody knew how to make any profit producing it.
    If it is true in the US, you can bet it is true in several other areas around the world. How much that can add to global oil reserves that can eventually be produced, nobody knows. Just hope it is a LOT, because you don't want to be alive after global oil production enters terminal decline (Post Peak Oil) because the over leveraged financial system will melt down from bad debts within a few years after that begins.

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