The U.S. Energy Information Administration has slashed by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil in California’s Monterey Shale deposits.

Only about 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, not the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the formation across Central California, the EIA said.

“The new estimate, expected to be released publicly next month, is a blow to the nation’s oil future and to projections that an oil boom would bring as many as 2.8 million new jobs to California and boost tax revenue by $24.6 billion annually,” the Los Angeles Times said.

The EIA said the prior estimate issued in 2011 by an independent firm under contract with the government assumed wrongly that deposits in the Monterey Shale formation were as easily recoverable as those found in shale formations elsewhere.

“Major oil companies have expressed doubts for years about recovering much of the oil,” the LA Times said.

“Unlike heavily fracked shale deposits in North Dakota and Texas, which are relatively even and layered like a cake, Monterey Shale has been folded and shattered by seismic activity, with the oil found at deeper strata,” the report said.

Compared with oil production from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, “the Monterey formation is stagnant,” according to John Staub, a petroleum exploration and production analyst who led the EIA research.

He told the LA Times the potential for recovering the oil could rise if new technology is developed.


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