Exploration and field development in the largest continuous shale oil play in the Lower 48 states, the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana, will be guided by new geo-models developed with funding from the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE).

The three-year project to develop the exploration and reservoir models for the Bakken play was conducted by the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) through research funded by FE's Oil and Natural Gas Program. A consortium of 29 companies, mainly independents, already is using the project's findings to further develop the Bakken.

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the Bakken contains 3.65 billion bbl of oil and 1.85 Tcf natural gas that can be recovered using current technologies.

CSM has integrated information about rock physics, the formation's rock strata, and seismic, fracture and thermal maturity data -- all complied during the course of the project -- into a series of reports that could be used as an exploration model to predict high-potential fairways and traps for the Bakken hydrocarbon system.

CSM also developed a second 3-D reservoir geo-model, which was built using data from the Elm Coulee Field in Richland County, MT, in the western portion of the Williston Basin. The Elm Coulee is the largest producing oilfield in the basin. More than 350 horizontal wells have been drilled in the field since the initial horizontal well was drilled in 2000, FE said.

In Elm Coulee wells, the primary oil recovery is only 5-10%. "This poor primary recovery makes Elm Coulee an excellent candidate for secondary oil recovery, in which pressure is applied to force the oil from the reservoir," FE noted.

For more information contact Jenny Hakun at jenny.hakun@hq.doe.gov.