Transcript for Wrestling with Uncertainty, segment 02 of 16


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In eighteen fifty-nine the first commercial oil well in the United States began supplying petroleum from a depth of sixty-nine feet near the town of Titusville, Pennsylvania. Since then, the U. S. petroleum industry has drilled three million oil and gas wells and supplied one hundred sixty billion barrels of oil and eight hundred forty trillion cubic feet of natural gas. For over one hundred years oil production in the United States increased steadily, but it peaked in nineteen seventy-one and has been declining ever since. This shouldn't surprise us. With so much potential oil land already explored, finding new fields comes harder than it did in the early days. Still, billions of barrels of oil and large quantities of natural gas are waiting to be discovered here in the United States, but how much is there, and how available is it?

These are the questions that we wrestle with in the national assessment. In doing so we review reams of data on the geology and production history of existing oil an gas fields. By projecting current trends of drilling and discovery into areas that have not yet been developed, we can estimate the number, the size, the depth, and the general location of undiscovered oil and gas resources. Using these estimates, we can calculate the volume of oil and gas that might be found over the next few decades. We add an estimate of what could come from future growth of existing fields and end up with a view of potential additions to our oil and gas reserves from onshore areas of the United States and from state waters. Federal offshore areas are assessed separately by the Minerals Management Service.