“At three times the cost, you can drill the equivalent of 12 to 48 wells,” Kaiser said.
Along with better drilling techniques, technology also has helped producers more accurately find the oil in the ground.
“Real-time geophysics is what has really changed the game,” said Mark Mills, CEO at Digital Power and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “You couldn't do that before.”
Three-dimensional seismic data — and the enormous amount of computer power needed to map it — have allowed producers to target their drilling and fracking efforts better.
Operators are using the process to target the dense shale, limestone and other source rocks that underlie the softer layers they used to aim for.
The improvements have allowed the industry to reverse a 40-year decline in domestic oil production.
“The geology is exactly the same as it was 50 years ago. The world is awash with hydrocarbons,” Mills said. “The only question is whether you're allowed to get to them and whether you have the technology to do it.”