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Real Possibilities: New Horizons for Shale Drilling

Chris Sutton- Partner, Clover Global Solutions, LP

Although shale plays like Marcellus, Barnett, Bakken, and Eagle Ford have captured the most public attention, they represent just a portion of the potentially oil and gas-bearing shale formations around the world.

A June 2013 US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report concluded that shale oil and gas resources are “globally abundant.” Of the 150 shale reservoirs cited, 137 of them are located outside of the US. The EIA suggested that if only 6 to 12 are put into production and prove as high-yielding as the well-known US formations, it would have a significant impact on the worldwide supply or oil and gas.

But even with the sizable number of overseas reservoirs, the US still has the world’s largest, untapped oil reserves, an estimated 2.3 trillion barrels. Of that, shale fields hold about 1.5 trillion barrels, a figure larger than total OPEC reserves, representing about 200 years worth of supply at current US consumption levels.

With natural gas prices dropping and crude oil trending higher, there’s even greater profit incentive to exploit oil from shale.

Where will U.S. oil and gas companies create the next shale boom?

According to a recent CNN Money report, California could become the next oil boom state. The 1750-square-mile Monterey Shale is believed to contain nearly 500 billion barrels of shale oil. Although California’s complex geology makes current shale extraction methods less effective than they are elsewhere, the EIA estimates that today’s technology could successfully recover more than 15 billion barrels of oil.


The Green River region of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming also has vast oil reserves that may be more difficult to extract. However, scientists believe that recovering just half of the area’s approximately 1 trillion barrels would generate an amount nearly triple the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, geologists say that established technology is capable of releasing significant amounts of both oil and natural gas in Alaska’s North Slope, which contains an estimated 2 billion barrels of oil and 80 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.


In New Mexico and Oklahoma, two recently developed shale plays are already yielding results.

WPX Energy has begun to tap the Mancos Shale in the San Juan Basin some 100 miles southeast of Farmington, NM. Experts believe the San Juan Basin could produce 6 billion barrels of oil.  And in Oklahoma’s Woodford Shale, Continental Resources is producing at an area they call the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province, or SCOOP. The company reports it many have found 1.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent.


Other shale formations to watch include:


  • Avalon and Bone Springs in the Permian Basin in Southeast New Mexico and West Texas.

Natural gas:

  • Devonian Big Sandy, in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia
  •  Antrim,  northern part of Michigan
  •  Floyd-Neal/Conasauga, Alabama and Mississippi
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas and Oklahoma
  • Cana Woodford, Oklahoma
  •  Lewis, in the San Juan Basin in Colorado and New Mexico.

Which up and coming shale play will become the next Bakken?  Leave your educated guess in the comments below.

Clover specializes in placing professionals in the oil and gas industry. If you are an Operator seeking to engage highly-qualified technical consultants to meet your project requirements, contact Jeff.W@clovergs.com.

If you are a Petroleum Engineer, Reservoir Engineer, Drilling Engineer, Completions Engineer, Geologist, Geophysicist and all Project Support Services roles looking for opportunities in the Exploration and Production sector, or just want to be kept up to date on new opportunities, send your resume in complete confidence to Chris.S@clovergs.com.