Powder River Basin in Wyoming

With flagging industry exacerbated by the economic downturn in 2007, many areas in the United States have become economically depressed over the last fifty years. In areas that once provided blue collar workers with a plethora of factory or mining jobs, such as West Virginia, but have been in decline, many have cashed in on the expansion in domestic oil and gas drilling. Wyoming, too, has been in decline for decades, but now finds itself a potential poster child for oil- and gas-driven economic revitalization.

maritimedrillingschool_basinOil production in the Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming had been flagging since the mid-20th Century; however, according to study released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, this trend of decline has effectively been reversed thanks to advancements in extraction technologies such as hydraulic fracturing. In 2009, production reached an average of around 38,000 barrels per day during the first quarter, with a yearly total of over 17 million barrels.

Since then, 590 new wells have been built. In 2013, figures supported by data from both the U.S. E.I.A. and the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission show that the new wells and improved practices drove production to around 78,000 barrels per day, reaching 30 million barrels by the end of the year. Much of this increased production has actually come from the older wells in Campbell and Converse counties, where newly improved methods have once again made it profitable to extract. In effect, oil production has been doubled over the last five years, a welcome return for oil and gas companies and a wave of relief to workers feeling the strain from the economy.

Plans for expanding the extraction operation are ongoing. Currently, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is studying the potential for Converse County, Wyoming to support the construction of over 5,000 additional wells over the next 10 years. With production having doubled in the last five years from just under 600 wells, the prospects of the increased production that would come from the addition of 5,000 wells over ten years are tantalizing.

There is sure to be oil and gas ready to be tapped for years to come, but industry economists acknowledge that their profitability will be largely predicated on domestic oil prices. Domestic oil prices have been declining over the last quarter, but as long as the price remains above $90 per barrel (the price is currently at $92 per barrel), experts say that production will still be viable.