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U.S. Geological Survey Finds More Untapped Oil in Part of Permian Basin

Better drilling technology means existing oilfields can produce more oil than before.


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A pumpjack located south of Midland, Texas.

There’s more recoverable oil in a part of West Texas than scientists previously thought.

A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey is just the latest sign that the nation’s top oilfield will continue to attract drillers.

Add it to the list of reasons people keep talking about “Permania” in the Permian Basin.

10 years ago, in just one part of that sprawling oilfield, the U.S.G.S. identified 530 million barrels of oil that drillers could get their hands on, if they wanted.

Now, that number for the Spraberry Formation is up to 4.2 billion barrels.

That doesn’t mean there's suddenly more oil under the ground. It just means people know more about how to find it.

"With horizontal drilling and fracking of these wells, industry can successfully extract more of the resource,” says Dr. Stephanie Gaswirth, the survey’s task chief for the Permian Basin.

She led a study of another part of the region last year that found a much bigger twenty billion barrels of oil. She says if companies keep getting better at drilling, we could see more of the same.

“As the technology continues to improve, there are definitely resources out there that wouldn't have been considered productive, without those technologies that we now have.”

Drillers are continuing to lust over West Texas. Rig counts are up, companies are turning profits even with low oil prices, and the Basin's accounting for a larger share of nationwide oil production.