The United States may soon be able to say goodbye to foreign oil. According to the International Energy Agency, U.S. shale oil will meet most of the new oil demand from all around the globe within the next five years, even if world economies pick up more steam. Where did all of this new fossil fuel come from and how do American energy companies plan to handle the influx?
Oil shale can be refined and used for the same purposes as products derived from crude oil, which is what makes the shale oil boom globally significant. Natural gas can be processed into ethane, propane, butane, and other forms of fuel, and can also be found in shale reserves. Thanks to new and advanced technologies, the United States has located new reserves of these fuels or can now attain reserves previously believed unreachable. Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) and horizontal drilling are new technology applications that have made reaching shale oil and gas possible.
The Marcellus Shale bed, a geological formation located across West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York, was once thought to be exhausted, but it is now known to hold an estimated 160-500 trillion cubic feet of untapped resources. Similarly, a recent United States Geological Survey revealed an estimated 7.4 billion barrels of oil in the Bakken and Three Forks shale in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. Texas’ Barnett shale consists of sedimentary rocks well over 300 million years old and has launched Texas into the forefront of shale oil and gas production. It has been estimated to contain the largest producible reserves of any natural gas field in the U.S. Texas is also home to the Eagle Ford shale play, which is one of the most actively drilled formations in the entire country due to the ease of hydraulic fracturing in the area. Eagle Ford is considered to be a huge economic development for the state of Texas, ranking as the largest oil and gas development in the world based on invested capital.
These new found fuel reserves have helped the U.S. import much less foreign oil as refineries increase production and new refineries are opened to process the influx of new resources. The U.S. is also exporting more oil and gas to other nations. Many energy companies looking to get in on the boom scrambled to get a bid in on the new reserves found in North Dakota. Refineries all over the country are in high gear and North America is soon expected to be number one in oil production out of the 12 members of OPEC.