The Most Oil-Rich States

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The amount of oil that can be extracted at a profit in the United States grew by 14.1% in 2011 compared to 2010. Although still very expensive compared to old methods, technological improvements of new oil extraction techniques/processes, such as horizontal drilling and fracking, has helped to lower their costs. States such as North Dakota stand to benefit from their now cheaper-to-exploit oil reserves.

Ten states accounted for roughly 94% of all onshore U.S. reserves as of the end of 2011, with roughly a third of this in Texas alone — just over 7 billion barrels. In many of these states, the oil industry is a major part of their economies. Based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s data on proved oil reserves by states, these are the most oil-rich states in the country.

These states process the vast majority of the oil refined in the U.S. each year. Of the nation’s 139 operating refineries, 89 are located in these states. The national refinery capacity is roughly 16.7 million barrels per day. Texas, California, Oklahoma, and Louisiana alone have a capacity of more than 10 million barrels per day.

As might be expected, a high proportion of the jobs in these states is in the oil and gas industry, much higher than the national average of 0.5% of jobs. All but one of the most oil-rich states are in the top 15 for these types of jobs. In Wyoming, 8.5% of all jobs are in mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction.

However, these are just the actual jobs in the industry. The increase in jobs and the influx of people to these area are also creating many more jobs in other industries to support these workers. In six of these states oil and gas accounted for more than 10% of all jobs in 2011, according to PricewaterHouseCoopers. In Wyoming, it was more than 20%.

Workers in the oil and gas industry are very well paid. Nationally, the median pay in related occupations is $56,587 compared to a national median wage of $32,096. In the oil-rich states, the median pay in these positions is even higher. In Alaska, the median worker in the extraction industry earns more than $85,000.

These oil industry jobs and wages helped many of these states endure the recent recession relatively well even as the rest of the country went through severe unemployment. Because of the Bakken Shale boom in North Dakota, the state’s unemployment rate was just 4% in October, 2009, when the national jobless rate was 10%. As of June, the unemployment rate in these states was below the national average rate in nine of the 10 states.

To identify the states with the most oil reserves, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed proved oil reserves data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Reserves figures are as of December 31, 2011, the most recent date for which there is available data. We also reviewed industry employment data from the U.S. Census Bureau as of 2011. We also referenced the industry’s contributions to employment from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report, “The Economic Impacts of the Oil & Natural Gas Industry on the Economy in 2011.” Operating refineries and daily refining capacity are as of January 1, 2013. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and are as of June.