Not Just for Natural Gas: New Shale Technologies Could Tap Into Billions of Barrels of Oil Worldwide

Not Just for Natural Gas: New Shale Technologies Could Tap Into Billions of Barrels of Oil Worldwide

The same drilling technologies that helped foster the U.S. shale boom could help unlock as much as 141 billion barrels of crude oil outside North America, new reports say.

According to a May 18 Oil and Gas Investor article, techniques like horizontal drilling and hydraulic stimulation and fracturing could extract these significant stores of oil from more than 170 mature oil plays worldwide.

Currently, there are enough oil stores on hand to meet another 53.3 years of production, but much of this oil is trapped beneath shale deposits that traditional oil drilling technologies can’t penetrate. Of the 141 billion barrels of crude oil sitting in old oil fields, 135 billion barrels exist in places that would likely require hydraulic fracturing, the IHS report stated.

The top four countries that contain these oil stores included Iran, Russia, Mexico and China. Throughout the last 10 years, global proved oil reserves have risen a significant 27%, or 350 million barrels.

Shale drilling techniques have long been in use as a means to extract natural gas from beneath shale deposits. Hydraulic stimulation, a technique that sends blasts of water, sand and chemicals into the earth to break apart shale deposits and release natural gas stores, has particularly contributed to the shale boom seen throughout North America. Currently, as many as 95% of new oil and gas wells drilled in the U.S. are hydraulically fractured.

While the technology has thrived in the U.S., other countries have had trouble adopting these techniques and the equipment needed to execute them. In shale-rich China, for example, water shortages and rough terrain make it difficult to successfully adopt horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, Oil and Gas Investor reports.

If shale drilling technologies were to spread, however, there’s a chance the shale boom could spread outside North America for the first time.

What are your thoughts on using techniques like hydraulic stimulation to unlock global oil stores trapped beneath shale deposits? Have any other questions about frac work or oil drilling equipment in general? Let us know in the comments below.

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