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The Niobrara Formation, one such organic-rich shale, is a particularly hot target here in Colorado. While a large volume of natural gas (>700 billion cubic feet by one estimate) has already been produced, it is now Niobrara oil that is the focus of everyone’s attention. Often mentioned for comparison purposes are the Bakken Formation of North Dakota or the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas. But, as producers are just beginning to ramp up drilling and production, the question of how much oil is really available for exploitation over the long term remains to be answered.
One of the first Niobrara horizontal wells, known as the Jake well, was drilled by EOG Resources in October 2009 and produced 50,000 barrels of oil in its first 90 days. After a year, it is still produc- ing more than 2,500 barrels of oil per month. This is significant given that the average oil well in the U.S. generates just 300 barrels of oil per month. Another well, the Gemini well drilled by Noble Energy in early 2010, produced over 32,000 barrels of oil in 6 months. These early results are certainly promising, but for each of the more prolific wells, there are others that show little or no produc- tion. How quickly the flow of oil declines is very important for looking towards future potential of the resource as a whole.