A new assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that untapped regions of what's known as the Delaware Basin, a component of the greater Permian Basin, contain 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids – an amount two times larger than what was estimated in a 2016 assessment of just the Wolfcamp shale play in Permian's Midland Basin.
These estimates take into account access to continuous, unconventional oil comprised of "undisclosed" but "technically recoverable" resources, according to the USGS. This means that such resources are accessible using methods like slant drilling and hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking."
"Christmas came a few weeks early this year," stated U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, about the unexpected discovery. "American strength flows from American energy, and as it turns out, we have a lot of American energy."
"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."
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This news comes at the same time that President Donald Trump has announced that, for the first time, the U.S. is now exporting more crude oil than it's importing.
This makes the U.S. more robust in terms of energy independence than even Middle Eastern energy powerhouses like Saudi Arabia, which is known for its oil production.
According to the official numbers, the U.S. exported a net of 211,000 barrels of oil during the week that ended on November 30, 2018. Based on historical records provided by the Energy Department, this is the first time this has ever happened since the numbers first started getting tracked back in 1973.
"So when does the U.S. send a delegate to OPEC meetings?" joked Kyle Cooper, a consultant at ION Energy in Houston, as quoted by Reuters. "It's really quite amazing. I do think that will occur more and more often in the coming years."
As for America's vast domestic oil and natural gas reserves, we wouldn't even know about these latest ones were it not for advancements in the technology required to identify them.
"In the 1980s, during my time in the petroleum industry, the Permian and similar mature basins were not considered viable for producing large new recoverable resources," says USGS Director, Dr. Jim Reilly.
"Today, thanks to advances in technology, the Permian Basin continues to impress in terms of resource potential."
The latest assessment put together by the independent oil and natural gas consulting firm Rystad Energy back in 2016 estimates that there's currently 60 billion barrels of shale oil sitting underneath the ground in Texas alone – which is more recoverable oil than in the entire nation of Saudi Arabia.
These energy reserves in the Delaware and Midland assessments contain "our largest continuous oil and gas assessments ever released," says Reilly. "Knowing where these resources are located and how much exists is crucial to ensuring both our energy independence and energy dominance."
Just the Delaware area alone consists of 10,000 square miles of land that span five different counties in Texas, and another three in New Mexico. It is now said to be among the top areas for producing oil and natural gas in the entire country.
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