The Upper Devonian Three Forks and Upper Devonian to Lower Mississippian Bakken Formations comprise a major United States continuous oil resource. Current exploitation of oil is from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of the Middle Member of the Bakken and upper Three Forks, with ongoing exploration of the lower Three Forks, and the Upper, Lower, and Pronghorn Members of the Bakken Formation.
In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated a mean of 3.65 billion bbl of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil resource within the Bakken Formation. The USGS recently reassessed the Bakken Formation, which included an assessment of the underlying Three Forks Formation. The Pronghorn Member of the Bakken Formation, where present, was included as part of the Three Forks assessment due to probable fluid communication between reservoirs.
For the Bakken Formation, five continuous and one conventional assessment units (AUs) were defined. These AUs are modified from the 2008 AU boundaries to incorporate expanded geologic and production information. The Three Forks Formation was defined with one continuous and one conventional AU. Within the continuous AUs, optimal regions of hydrocarbon recovery, or “sweet spots,” were delineated and estimated ultimate recoveries were calculated for each continuous AU. Resulting undiscovered, technically recoverable resource estimates were 3.65 billion bbl for the five Bakken continuous oil AUs and 3.73 billion bbl for the Three Forks Continuous Oil AU, generating a total mean resource estimate of 7.38 billion bbl. The two conventional AUs are hypothetical and represent a negligible component of the total estimated resource (8 million barrels of oil).