Thursday, June 05, 2008

Oil Supply

John Bartelson, who smokes Marlboro Lights through fingers blackened with tractor grease, may look like an average wheat farmer. He isn't. He's one of North Dakota's new oil barons.

Every month, he gets a check for tens of thousands of dollars from a company in Houston called EOG Resources Inc., which drilled two oil wells on his land last year. He says the day his first royalty check arrived was one to remember.

``I smiled to beat hell, and I went to town and had a beer,'' Bartelson, 65, says.

His new wealth springs from the Bakken formation, a sprawling deposit of high-quality crude beneath the durum wheat fields of North Dakota, Montana and southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Bakken may give the U.S. -- the world's biggest importer of oil -- a new domestic energy source at a time when demand from China and India is ratcheting up the global competition for supplies and propelling average U.S. gasoline prices to almost $4 a gallon.

And unlike the tar from Canada's oil sands, Bakken crude needs little refining. Swirl some of it in a Mason jar and it leaves a thin, honey-colored film along the sides. It's light - -almost like gasoline -- and sweet, meaning it's low in sulfur.

Best of all, the Bakken could be huge. The U.S. Geological Survey's Leigh Price, a Denver geochemist who died of a heart attack in 2000, estimated that the Bakken might hold a whopping 413 billion barrels. If so, it would dwarf Saudi Arabia's Ghawar, the world's biggest field, which has produced about 55 billion barrels.

So, this is a story of supply and demand. The high oil prices and the increased profits for oil production certainly offer incentives to find and produce more oil. I guess some have said that they believe annual production of oil worldwide has peaked, but stories like this seem to offer a much different picture.

This is a fun story to read, so read the whole piece, especially if you are unhappy about the prices you find at the pump these days. Here is the finish to the piece:
. . . with crude trading above $125 a barrel, it'll be a long time before the rigs leave again, and John Bartelson is likely to be a wealthy man before they do.

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