Russia sits on largest reserves of shale oil

The U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates the total reserves of shale oil at 375 billion barrels, of which Russia accounts for 75 billion, the U.S. 58 billion and China 32 billion. Source: Reuters

The U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates the total reserves of shale oil at 375 billion barrels, of which Russia accounts for 75 billion, the U.S. 58 billion and China 32 billion. Source: Reuters

American experts believe that nearly all Russia's shale oil reserves of 75 billion barrels are contained in the oil-bearing deposits of the Bazhenov play in Western Siberia.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) has published its first assessment of technically recoverable shale oil and gas resources in the majority of petroleum-producing countries, of which there are 42. It turns out that Russia has the largest reserves of shale oil and the ninth largest of shale gas. The shale oil in place could satisfy global demand for the next 10 years, according to The Financial Times.

The EIA estimates the total reserves of shale oil at 375 billion barrels, of which Russia accounts for 75 billion, the U.S. 58 billion and China 32 billion.

U.S. experts believe that nearly all Russia's shale oil resources are contained in the oil-bearing deposits of the Bazhenov play in Western Siberia, pointing out that they are hard to reach: The amount of recoverable reserves represent only a fraction (6 percent) of the total (1.24 trillion barrels), even ignoring the economic feasibility of producing them.

In the coming years, Lukoil, Rosneft (together with ExxonMobil), and Gazprom (together with Shell) plan to commence experimental development. In contrast, thanks to the widespread application of hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling, shale oil in the U.S. already makes up 30 percent of total production. It is shale that helped keep oil prices in the region of $120 per barrel during the period of sanctions against Iraq.

Total world reserves of shale gas are estimated at 206 trillion cubic meters of gas (tcm), the largest share of which belongs to China (32 tcm), followed by Argentina (23 tcm) and Algeria (20 tcm). The U.S. – the world leader in terms of shale gas production – is fourth, with 19 tcm. Russia, which is blessed with more reserves of traditional gas, ranks only ninth, with 8 tcm.

The EIA gauged only technically recoverable reserves and made it clear that the figures were "approximate" at best. Furthermore, they exclude prospective shale formations, including ones in the Middle East and the Caspian region. The report highlights the significant growth potential of shale oil and gas production, but only time will tell how realistic this growth is from an economic point of view, stated EIA Director Adam Sieminski.

The article is first published in Russian in Vedomosti newspaper

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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