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New EIA report boosts estimates of global recoverable shale oil resources 10-fold to 345 billion barrels

Map of basins with assessed shale oil and shale gas formations, as of May 2013. Source: US EIA. Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released a new report that estimates that shale oil and shale gas resources in the United States and in 137 shale formations in 41 other countries represent 10% of the world’s crude oil and 32% of the world’s natural gas technically recoverable resources—i.e., those that can be produced using current technology without reference to economic profitability.

Among the highlights in the 2013 report is a 10-fold increase in the estimate of technically recoverable shale / tight oil from 32 billion barrels (from the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2011) to 345 billion barrels. The report also estimates technically recoverable shale gas resources of 7,299 trillion cubic feet—10% higher than an estimate in an earlier 2011 report on recoverable shale gas resources.

Report terminology
Although the terms shale oil and tight oil are often used interchangeably in public discourse, shale formations are only a subset of all low permeability tight formations, which include sandstones and carbonates, as well as shales, as sources of tight oil production.
Within the US, industry typically refers to tight oil production rather than shale oil production, because it is a more encompassing and accurate term with respect to the geologic formations producing oil at any particular well.
EIA has adopted this convention, and develops estimates of tight oil production and resources in the United States that include, but are not limited to, production from shale formations. The ARI assessment of shale formations looks exclusively at shale resources and does not consider other types of tight formations.

EIA commissioned Advanced Resources International, Inc. (ARI) to conduct the new world shale resource assessment because shale oil production has become a significant source of oil supply within the United States and because more and better geologic information has become available for shale formations located outside the United States.

The earlier EIA/ARI study from 2011 stimulated new work on shales in many countries (e.g., Algeria, Argentina, and Mexico), providing significantly more data for the 2013 study, EIA said.

The agency gave two reasons for pursuing an updated assessment of shale resources so soon after the prior report.

  • Geologic research and well drilling results not available for use in the 2011 report allow for a more informed evaluation of the shale formations covered in that report as well as other shale formations that it did not assess.

  • While the 2011 report focused exclusively on natural gas, recent developments in the United States highlight the role of shale formations and other tight plays as sources of crude oil, lease condensates, and a variety of liquids processed from wet natural gas.

The EIA noted that the growth in tight oil production shows how important shale oil production has become in the United States. US tight oil production increased from an average 0.2 million barrels per day in 2000 to an average of 1.9 million barrels per day in 2012 for 10 select formations. The growth in tight oil production has been so rapid that US tight oil production was estimated to have reached 2.2 million barrels per day in December 2012. Although EIA has not published tight oil proved reserves, EIA’s current estimate of unproved US tight oil resources is 58 billion barrels.

More than half of the identified shale oil resources outside the United States are concentrated in four countries—Russia, China, Argentina and Libya—while more than half of the non-US shale gas resources are concentrated in five countries: China, Argentina, Algeria, Canada, and Mexico.

The United States would be ranked second after Russia for shale oil resources and fourth after Algeria for shale gas resources if compared with the 41 countries assessed.

While the current report considers more shale formations than were assessed in the 2011 version, it still does not assess many prospective shale formations, such as those underlying the large oil fields located in the Middle East and the Caspian region. Currently, only the United States and Canada are producing shale oil and shale gas in commercial quantities.

As shale oil and shale gas production has grown in the United States to become 30% of oil and 40% of natural gas total production, interest in the oil and natural gas resource potential of shale formations outside the United States has grown. Today’s report indicates a significant potential for international shale oil and shale gas, though the extent to which technically recoverable shale resources will prove to be economically recoverable is not yet clear.

—EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski

Shale oil and shale gas resource estimates are highly uncertain and will remain so until the shale basins are extensively tested with production wells, EIA cautioned. The report’s methodology for estimating the shale resources outside the United States is based on the geology and resource recovery rates of similar shale formations in the United States that have produced shale oil and shale gas from thousands of producing wells.


  • Technically Recoverable Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources: An Assessment of 137 Shale Formations in 41 Countries Outside the United States (2013 report )

  • World Shale Gas Resources: An Initial Assessment of 14 Regions Outside the United States (2011 report)



Wild guesses?


Cool!!! Now we can keep on spewing filth into the air forever... until none of us can breathe! Isn't that awesome news!

Ok, seriously, on the economic front that is awesome. Our society reveolves around oil. But please, please tell me we'll find a better way to power crap before we need all that.


90+ million barrels per day times 365 days per year is 32.85 billion barrels per year, increasing to over 34.5 billion barrels per year over time.

SO, this is 10 years of world consumption. You add that to the production we have now and it extends it out a bit, but just a bit. Some might say this could allow the world to consume 100 million barrels per day, but there may be better ways.

If you are oil companies this is good news, hundreds of billions of dollars annual profits for the next 60 years, but for everyone else that has to pay $5,$6 or $7 per gallon for fuel in the U.S. not so much.


I don't quite understand, proven oil reserves are about 1.3Trillions barrels so 340 billions barrels is not 10% increase, I guess that technically recoverable doesn't mean proven neither possible but more like probable. USGS has never been very good in predicting future discoveries so not too sure what to do with these numbers


This is good news for all industries and all forms of energy. Increased wealth through all sectors when energy is cheap means further R&D and consumers/business fleets who can actually afford to get into new technology/fuel systems for cars. This is the best news for all forms of EV production. Counter-intuitive fact that during times of boom -even dirty energy fueled booms- are the time when money and time flows into good causes such as environmental remediation, alternative energy and transport tech., infrastructure upgrade, and smaller entrepreneurial business opportunities. The worst thing would have been a fuel price- up-spike and production down-spike despite the knee-jerk thought that this might jump-start EV vehicles beyond the first 3-5 year panic. Sadly, a lot of that money and tech will need to be in environmental remediation and formation close-out procedures. Though, net benefit to humanity in tech and business investment energy solutions. No different than the need to blacken Manchester, the Heartlands/east coast, and half of europe during the industrial revolution a few centuries ago for all its tech advantages. Our kids will thank us more for the clean tech solutions this money produced than the semi-clean and slightly-less CO2 filled atmosphere 'feel good only' with all its inevitable decline as an alternative. Sad truth that humanity will need to be remain dirty for a few more generations.


"without reference to economic profitability"


Come on guys, do you really needs a translation for "without reference to economic profitability" ???


Hence $8 per U.S. gallon.


The peakist Cassandras are proven wrong once agasin.

I think it is significant that this estimate is going to be raised substantially, once again. It appears that only a few countries have actually mapped their shale deposits, so as more do so, the total will increase by a few orders of magnitude. Similarly, the technology for extraction is undergoing a flux right now, so technology will make much more recoverable.

Regarding the comments by brain laundered tree huggers, to all practical intents and purposes, there is no longer much Air Pollution in North America, as technology has produced a fix, and the Air is rapidly clearing here. Even cleaner, "pristine", Air is also in the offing here.

Now that Europe has decided, finally, to join the pollution free activity, and even countries like China are signing up to begin the effort, the worldwide solution is only a few decades away at most. They will then be able to breathe as freely as most Americans can now do.

With resources freed and redirected from rather useless efforts at limiting a needed trace gas CO2, and the roadmap of technological solutions already established, and mass production infrastructure in place, progress will be rapid.

James Douglas

These numbers are like to climb significantly higher this report excludes the middle east and equatorial africa, and the elephant in the room OFFSHORE deposits. Under almost every conventional oil play basin is the source rocks...those source rocks are shales and typically they are still full of hydrocarbons that have not migrated outwards to the conventional traps.

Under the middle east there would be MASSIVE shale source rocks as would to be expected in sedimentary basins of those sizes and depths.

The Gulf of Mexico , North Sea, sub-salt Offshore Brazil these basin will have absolutely mind boggling source rocks under them to have produced the current amount of oil that is colocated conventionally.

The hydrocarbon migration rates from source rocks to traps is almost never more than 50% so what ever is in the conventional traps one can safe guess that an equal amount is still trapped in the source shales or carbonates.

For those wondering yes as a matter of fact I am a Geologist holding 2 geoscience undergraduates and a master degree in a Geoscience as well, Sedimentology specifically littoral deposits are my specialty: shales, carbonates, calcarious sandstones, dolomitic sandstones ect.. you can take my assessment as being of a professional nature. I get paid quite nicely to find, categorize and assess shales and the above mentioned sedimentary stratigraphy types.

The key break through is accurate micro seismic orientated horizontal drilling with 3 and 4D resolutions while still down bore thus allowing the long lateral horizontal bore to stay in the payzone of progressively narrower deposits for subsequent pressure fracturing notice I did not say hydrofracture as not all fracture methods us water some of the best us another propellant carrier such as supercritical CO2 or LPG gas.

It is a myth that a triple steal cased quadruple concrete grouted well bore can some how communicate through 1-3000 Meters of impregnable strata to a overlying aquifer, ALL documented cases of water contamination have been from surface sources such as failed retention ponds or spills at the drill site, or criminal neglect on the drillers who willingly did not triple case and quad grout there downbore string and a blowout happened due to a failed well casing of used in criminally negligent standards, not one case of documented isotopically proven downbore fracture communication contamination has ever occurred.

The EPA has spent YEARS looking at cases and in every one the isotopic analysis of the contamination has been shallow or surface sourced, Atoms and mass spectrometers do not lie unlike people with a political agenda such as Matt Damon. these types of contaminations can happen at any drilling operation irrelevant of any hydro-fracturing or not shotty drillers are a danger to everyone and should be run out of the biz and jailed in my opinion.

The industry when held to modern ISO standards has a very good record of safely completing a down bore string to production without danger to the land or water, much much better than the coal industry and an order of magnitude better than mining especially solution miners.

Fracturing has been used by the industry vertically and horizontally for FOURTY PLUS YEARS without ever having a communication problem. fractures are limited in propagation length by pressure of the over burden and strength modus of the rocks of the payzone MAX lengths approach 100m and that rare very rare typical lenghts are 15-50m.

For example in the North Texas Total petroleum system the distance from payzone to water is over 8000 feet with no less than 3 some times 5 layers of cap rock strat between the formation and the deepest aquifer which happens to be salt water in this case and unfit for human consumption the closest freshwater aquifer is 9000+ feet away in the vast majority of the system.


SJC...correct me if I'm wrong but it would take 36.5 billion barrels to supply the world for 365 days (one single year) at 100 million barrels per day?

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