The U.S. Geological Survey just announced it had found the largest uninterrupted oil and gas reserve in an area of West Texas known as the Wolfcamp Shale Formation. They estimate it contains roughly 20 billion barrels of oil and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The USGS believes it’s about three times more oil than what was discovered in North Dakota’s Bakken oil shale field in 2013.

Or put another way, the amount of oil in the new find is roughly three times the amount used by the entire country in a single year.

The USGS said the oil is “technically recoverable” using current knowledge and technology. That’s in large part to hydraulic fracking, where oil companies first drill down and then horizontally, injecting high-pressure fluid (containing water, sand, and thickening agents) to fracture, or crack, the deep rock formation. That allows the natural gas and oil to flow out via the fractures being kept open by the fluid.

Billions of barrels of oil

The USGS noted that “even in areas that have produced billions of barrels of oil, there is still the potential to find billions more.” They point out how “changes in technology and industry practices can have significant effects on what resources are technically recoverable, and that's why we continue to perform resource assessments throughout the United States and the world.”

Companies are currently positioning themselves to tap into the previously undiscovered unbroken petroleum reserve in the Wolfcamp shale in the Midland Basin, part of the Permian Basin in Province, Texas.

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One company already working in the Wolfcamp area is Pioneer Natural Resources, which shut down vertical drilling in 2015 and switched to horizontal drilling. Other companies have already announced they will be working the Wolfcamp shale basin.

Immense economic benefits

Analysts expect immense economic benefits owing to this new discovery based on what happened in North Dakota after fracking for shale became viable.

The North Dakota oil boom allowed the U.S. to export compressed natural gas to other countries and cut gasoline prices in half from their historic highs of over $4 a gallon. The fracking oil boom came despite the EPA’s continuing efforts to add roadblocks, despite their own studies showing fracking was safe and didn’t pose a hazard to drinking water.

But as prices dropped, new fracking technologies were developed to remain competitive with vertical drilling.

Once a barrel of oil dips below $50, fracking is no longer cost effective. That was the primary reason Saudi Arabia lowered the price of its oil: to drive U.S.-based fracking companies out of business. Saudi Arabia hemorrhaged billions of dollars a day by pursuing this predatory pricing scheme.

The Paris Climate Agreement

And while natural gas produces much less carbon dioxide (CO2) upon combustion than petroleum, the Paris Climate Agreement may hamper efforts to get the oil and gas out of the ground.

Though the climate change accord is legally non-binding, the U.S. has “pledged” to reduce CO2 emissions “26 to 28 percent by 2025.” Any country that withdraws must wait four years, a stipulation likely added in case a Republican won the U.S. election.

President-elect Donald Trump has already stated he would exit the accord and “make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and water.” He notes on his website that shale energy production would add two million new jobs in seven years. The Heritage Foundation calculated that President Obama’s energy restrictions will cost another 500,000 jobs by 2030 if his onerous regulations weren’t rescinded.

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