A drilling rig rises above Kennedy, Texas, in May 2012. Certain condensate distilled from oil mined in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas may be sold overseas, the Commerce Department recently ruled.

A Big Shale Oil Opportunity, But Just How Big?

The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale could bring a boom to Louisiana and Mississippi.

A drilling rig rises above Kennedy, Texas, in May 2012. Certain condensate distilled from oil mined in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas may be sold overseas, the Commerce Department recently ruled.

Drilling in the Gulf Coast has promise.

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Yet another Gulf Coast oil play may have the potential to yield millions of barrels of high quality crude oil … but don’t look for it in Alabama.

The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale holds an estimated 7 million to 9 million barrels of light sweet crude spanning across a large slice of mid-Louisiana and extends into counties in southwest Mississippi. Louisiana State University research says the shale is deposited in a marine environment that existed across the Gulf Coast region approximately 90 million years ago.

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To put it simply, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has made a somewhat overlooked formation geologically attractive and accessible. According to the Dallas Morning News, a steady trickle of drilling has already boosted the rural region’s economy, and spending by two oil companies could make 2014 the year that many locals cash in on the oil far beneath their feet.

Those companies are Encana Corp., based in Dallas, and Goodrich Petroleum, based in Houston. Industry analysts say they expect the companies to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale. By April of this year, 20 wells were drilling, and today more than 30 wells across the region are bringing wealth to the surface. Recent estimates have oil companies leasing as much as 1.7 million acres of the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale land in Louisiana and Mississippi, spending more than $300 million. In Pike County, Mississippi officials say there’s potential for thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new income. 

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How substantial might the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale be? In a June 18 E&P Summit document by Goodrich Petroleum, the company said, “initial production results are very positive and improving. The Economics (of TMS) are potentially superior to those of Eagle Ford Shale.”

It’s important to note now that the LSU estimate of the reserves contained at the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale was calculated in 1997. It’s never been updated. Do you find that a bit puzzling?