Will North Dakota be the next big oil patch?

Deep under the northern Badlands, trapped tightly in dense layers of shale, there is oil. Perhaps hundreds of billions of barrels of it.

Geologists have known about a vast blanket of rock called the Bakken Formation for more than half a century. So the question isn’t whether high-quality crude really exists in a region not commonly associated with drilling rigs: North Dakota, eastern Montana and the southern parts of two Canadian provinces.

The question is, how tough is it to get at this oil? A long-anticipated federal report on the subject is expected today.

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