A shout-out to my artist, Laura, for bringing this to my attention: Snopes.com, a well-known urban legend “buster” site, has recently taken on none other than the Bakken Shale play in the northwest US as its target. I’m sure this will come as quite a surprise to the legions of companies who are staking claims in the area. Snopes got curious about a post it came across that virtually screams the praises of this giant field. “The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and has the potential to eliminate all American independence on foreign oil,” the post related. “The Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable … at $107 a barrel, we’re looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3 trillion.” Well, obviously oil is no longer selling at $107 per barrel. That’s strike one. Next, the post mentions “a recent technological breakthrough” that has “opened up the Bakken’s massive reserves” without mentioning, specifically, what that technological breakthrough might be. Ever inquisitive, but lazy as hell, I decided to look no farther than my own backyard, swiping a copy of Hart’s recent Bakken Shale Play Book from our library. In the technology section, more than one “breakthrough” is mentioned: cableless seismic, horizontal drilling, staged fractures as well as penetrating natural fractures, fracture monitoring, multilateral wells, advanced measurement-while-drilling techniques, predictive geosteering, completion design, and artificial lift techniques, to name a few. So now, with this “new technology,” the industry has opened up access to more than 500 Bbbl. Of light, sweet oil. Costing Americans just $16 per barrel. Enough energy to fuel the American economy for 41 years. Recent USGS estimates put the amount of recoverable reserves closer to 3.65 Bbbl. Strike two, perhaps. However, I have to take umbrage at the Snopes.com rebuttal as well. Saying that the post was “intended to sell subscriptions to an investment newsletter,” it allows as how geologists have agreed with most of these assessments, yet it poo-poohs the idea that the Bakken is a big play. “Ceratainly, 3.65 BBbl of recoverable oil is nothing to sneeze at, but a little perspective is in order,” Snopes.com notes. “The US currently imports an average of about 10 MMbo/d … so even if all the estimated undiscovered oil in the Bakken formation were extracted today, it would only be enough to wean the US off of crude oil imports for one year. That’s still a good thing, but it’s not nearly ‘enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 41 years straight’ as claimed above.” OK, OK. I get it. We have, on one side, “The Post,” which is breathless in its enthusiasm. We have, on the other side, “Snopes.com,” which prides itself on popping balloons full of nonsense. Did either side think to call the United States Geological Society, which provided the latest reserve estimates for the Bakken, or indeed any of the operators active in the play? I think, if they had (and of course I didn’t, only having come across this gem today), they might have discovered that there is more than a kernel of truth to the post, and more than a kernel of truth to the rebuttal. The fact is that the Bakken, like every other shale play in the US, is fraught with hazards, and at some commodity price level, the economics no longer make sense. But it is a truly monstrous play, and companies that do well in the Bakken are the companies that know how to apply the best technology in the most cost-effective way. Odds are good that the Bakken is not going to wean American from foreign oil. But it and its shale play counterparts are doing a good job of putting this country back on the map as a formidable producer of hydrocarbons.