The US Geological Survey (USGS) has reported that the Permian Basin’s Delaware sub-basin contains more than twice the technically recoverable reserves of the Midland sub-basin.
According to the USGS, the Wolfcamp play and overlying Bone Spring Formation in the Delaware Basin – spanning Texas and New Mexico – contain an estimated mean of 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 tcf (8.0 tcm) of gas and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids (NGLs).
“Christmas came a few weeks early this year,” said US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Before this assessment came down, I was bullish on oil and gas production in the United States. Now I know for a fact that American energy dominance is within our grasp as a nation,” he added.
“The results of this most recent assessment and that of the Wolfcamp formation in the Midland Basin in 2016 are our largest continuous oil and gas assessments ever released,” said the USGS’ director, Jim Reilly.
This is the biggest pool of oil and gas reserves ever assessed by the USGS anywhere in the country, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s executive director, Ryan Flynn, told the Albuquerque Journal. “Those are very important pieces of the basin, but it’s not the whole thing,” Flynn said. “That’s what makes this report so surprising, even for us.”
Not all of the reserves may be recoverable at current prices, however. The price of WTI is currently hovering at about US$52 per barrel, though it was above US$70 per barrel only in October.
The Wolfcamp play in the Midland Basin portion of the Permian was previously the largest assessment of continuous oil conducted by the USGS, as well as the largest pool of potentially recoverable hydrocarbons reported by the agency. But now, the Delaware Basin assessment of the Wolfcamp and Bone Spring plays is more than two times larger than that of the Midland, which was estimated to contain 20 billion barrels of oil and 16 tcf (453 bcm) of gas.
“The [Delaware Basin] results we’ve released today demonstrate the impact that improved technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling have had on increasing the estimates of undiscovered, technically recoverable continuous (i.e., unconventional) resources,” said the USGS’ Energy Resources Programme co-ordinator, Walter Guidroz.