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Tight oil


Tight oil refers to the light crude oil trapped in shale, limestone and sandstone formations characterized by very low porosity and permeability.

Tight oil is normally a light crude oil found in the sedimentary formations that may also be called light tight oil (LTO) or tight shale oil or even shale oil.


But the term of tight oil is preferred to shale oil in order to avoid the confusion with oil shale.

Tight oil or shale oil are different from oil shale.

Oil shale are composed of solid hydrocarbon (kerogen), a decomposed organic matter still at solid state, in a sedimentary rock unit while tight oil is a light crude.

Oil shale cannot be extracted using the same cost effective production techniques as tight light oil.  

Tight oil are classified as source rock (sedimentary rock with petroleum hydrocarbon production capacity).

The term of “tight” finds its justification on the limited flow of tight oil from the rock to the well bore by the largely impermeable fine-grained nature of the oil-hosting rock.

While some tight light oil plays produce oil directly from shale, most tight oil is produced from low-permeability siltstones, sandstones, limestones and dolostones that are associated with the shale.

The oil trapped in these relatively impermeable rock units requires well stimulation techniques including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

They use the same horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies used in shale gas development.

Advanced hydraulic fracturing means recovering tight oil from shale plays is becoming more and more economical and companies are rushing to acquire and exploit acreage in the formations where this oil is contained.

Since the shale gas over flooded the North American market with low-price shale gas, the spread with oil prices continuously increased leading the Oil and Gas Exploration and Production companies to focus on more lucrative liquid-rich shale plays including the Bakken, Niobrara and Eagle Ford in search of higher value tight oil deposits.

Tight oil may also be foound in other parts of the world such as the R’Mah play in Syria, Sargelu in the Persian Gulf, Athel in Oman,  Bazhenov, Achimov  in Russia, and Chicontepec in Mexico.

In July 2012, the US agency Energy Information Administration (EIA) published a survey about the tight oil forecasting the USA production from tight oil should more double by 2035.

In 2012 the production of tight oil  will be around 720,000 b/d representing 12.5% of the US production.

The EIA largest estimates of tight oil production boost volumes to 2.24 million b/d in 2020 and 2.8 million b/d in 2035.

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2 Comments to “Tight oil”

  1. This post is very informative. Thanks for sharing your information on tight oil plays in the lower 48 states.

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