Bakken as an illustration of reserve growth – how we find more oil in known fields that appear to be in decline. Peak Oil #8

Does oil just magically appear in a tapped out field or do the oil people learn how large the field really is, locate more oil, and develop new ways to get the oil out of the ground?

If you’ve read this blog for long, you know what I think the answer is.

Look at the monthly production data for the Bakken field, exclusive of wells elsewhere in North Dakota. You can find the data here. This data is for the Bakken, Sanish, Three Forks, and Bakken/Three Forks pools only.

  • December 1953 – One well is online producing 5,429 barrels. That’s for the month. A mere 175 barrels of oil per day (bopd).

  • September 1957 – four years later – There are 10 producing wells, with 13,649 barrels for the month, which is 455 bopd.
  • October 1966 – This appears to be the peak of the decade – 34 wells are producing 109,243 barrels, which is 3,524 bopd.
  • December 1978 – 25 years after opening the field – There are only 13 producing wells bringing up 11,122 barrels, or 359 bopd. Since October 1966 that is a drop of 21 wells and a decline of 3,165 bopd.
  • March 2007 – First month that jumped out at me showing a large increase – increase of 18 producing wells for the month. – The 321 wells produce 412,355 barrels, or 13,302 bopd. 54 years after the field is open there’s only 13K bopd.
  • May 2009 – number of producing wells crosses the 1,000 mark. With 1,033 wells there’s 3,826,224 barrels for the month, or 123,427 bopd. That is 10 times the daily production two years earlier.
  • May 2012 – almost 4,000 producing wells. Monthly production 17,794,820 barrels. That is 574,026 bopd. That is as much oil in 33 minutes as was produced in a day back in 2007, a mere 5 years ago.

In the 1960s production started the decade around 2,500 bopd, hit a peak of about 3,500 bopd, and then slowly declined to around 800 bopd at the end of the decade. That obviously proves the peak oil concept, right?

Not so fast.

Let’s assume that is an average of 2,000 bopd for the decade.

That is equal to 5 minutes of production in May 2012.

In the first 12 months of production starting with December 1953, there was about 70,000 barrels for a year. In the last 12 months, the Bakken field has produced 2,354 times more oil than that. Production increased by a factor of about 2,400.

All of that oil was there back in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.  When production declined in the last half of the ‘60s, enough oil to allow 600K bopd was already in the ground.  It did not just magically appear in the last five years.

What changed to bring all that oil out of the ground? The economics of oil and new technology. Can we please bury the Peak Oil concept?

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