Powder River Basin oil production more than doubles in 5 years, to 78,000 barrels a day


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CASPER, Wyoming — Oil production in the Powder River Basin of northeast Wyoming has more than doubled over the past five years, but industry observers say continued growth depends on oil prices remaining strong.

A U.S. Energy Information Agency report released Monday said oil output in the basin grew from 38,000 barrels per day in 2009 to 78,000 barrels per day during the first quarter of this year.

"For Wyoming, it's a big deal," state Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson said. "The whole state has been declining for 40 years, then you turn around and double production in five. If you double the production in five years, who knows what it will be in another five."

The increased oil production largely came from older oil fields in Campbell and Converse counties where output had declined over the years.

But upgrades in drilling and technology — such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — have reversed the decrease in production those formations had been facing.

"I knew there was an increase, but I just didn't know how much," Jimmy Goolsby, a geologist, told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1pi8wU5 ). "I would say it's a pretty big bump."

Watson and Gollsby said oil prices will determine if the boom will continue.

Domestic oil prices have been tumbling for three months, but remain above $90 per barrel. Many economists say that figure is still economical.

The state found similar figures as the federal agency did.

Production in the Powder River Basin was just above 17 million barrels in 2009, according to the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The basin produced around 30 million barrels of oil last year.

The area has seen more than 590 new wells within the last five years, the energy agency said.

In addition, an environmental study into adding up to 5,000 wells in Converse County over the next decade is being prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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