North Dakota Has Much More Oil Than We Thought

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is a small federal agency that keeps track of the reserves of many natural commodities in the U.S. such as coal, oil, and natural gas. This week they made an important announcement:

On April 30, 2013, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released an updated oil and gas resource assessment for the Bakken Formation and a new assessment for the Three Forks Formation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.  The assessments found that the formations contain an estimated mean of 7.4 billion barrels (BBO) of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil.  The updated assessment for the Bakken and Three Forks represents a twofold increase over what has previously been thought.

The USGS assessment found that the Bakken Formation has an estimated mean oil resource of 3.65 BBO and the Three Forks Formation has an estimated mean resource of 3.73 BBO, for a total of 7.38 BBO, with a range of 4.42 (95 percent chance) to 11.43 BBO (5 percent chance). This assessment of both formations represents a significant increase over the estimated mean resource of 3.65 billion barrels of undiscovered oil in the Bakken Formation that was estimated in the 2008 assessment.

This is good news for those who have benefited from the North Dakota oil boom, as it now seems that oil production will stick around for quite a while. Resourceful Earth has previously written about North Dakota, whose unemployment rate currently sits at 3.3 percent, compared to the national average of 7.6 percent.

The North Dakota oil boom has been very beneficial towards the incomes of those who live in the state (and has provided more tax revenue as well). Consider this new piece from The Atlantic:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently produced a breakdown of job growth during North Dakota’s oil rush, and it’s pretty remarkable. In counties where oil rigs have sprouted up to drill from the Bakken Shale Formation — a few of which are actually in Montana — employment grew by 35.9 percent from 2007 to 2011, from about 78,000 jobs to more than 105,000. But much as in Texas’s shale country, the impact on local job growth has actually been dwarfed by the impact on local income. Total wages more than doubled from $2.6 billion to $5.4 billion. Average pay jumped by more than half, from $33,040 to $50,553.

Blue-collar men suddenly finding high-paying work in the fields is a big part of the story. But jobs and paychecks have surged across industries. Some of the fastest growth has been in professional and technical services, a category dominated by college educated workers. Earnings have grown the most in real estate, which, with rents rivaling Manhattan in the boom town of Williston, isn’t that much of a surprise. But they’ve also jumped in working class sectors like transport (think trucking), construction, and even food services.

They also provide this chart:

BLS_North_Dakota_Oil-thumb-570x456-120532Via The Atlantic

The demand for employment has skyrocketed so much due to the oil boom, employers (even those unrelated to the oil industry) have had to significant increase wages in order to find enough workers to fill the demand. It looks like the average wage has increased around 50 percent, and employment in all fields has increased as well.

As the author notes, good luck convincing anyone that environmental concerns outweigh the massive benefits bestowed on working class individuals who have found relief from a decade of tough economic conditions.


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