North Dakota on top of bigger sea of oil, natural gas than first thought

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The latest assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the oil-rich region of western North Dakota holds more than twice the recoverable crude oil estimated just five years ago, the Star Tribune reports.

Reuters says there are roughly 7.4 billion barrels of oil that could be recovered in the Bakken Formation and Three Forks Formation, which spans parts of North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota. That increases an estimate in 2008 by more than 3 billion barrels of undiscovered oil.

"These world-class formations contain even more energy resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in news release. “We must develop our domestic energy resources armed with the best available science, and this unbiased, objective information will help private, nonprofit and government decision makers at all levels make informed decisions about the responsible development of these resources.”

"It's a great number but it's conservative," Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, told the Associated Press.

The new report shows the two formations also hold about 6.7 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, Minnesota Public Radio reports. That's three times more than the 2008 assessment.

Oil drillers in North Dakota are producing more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day. The state is only second to Texas in domestic oil production.

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