July 8, 2014


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

In just a little over a 10-year span, North Dakota has seen its oil production increase from around 90,000 barrels per day to a record one million barrels per day from 10,658 wells in April. And it is the new technology that allows for the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Bakken and Three Forks formations in western North Dakota that is entirely responsible for this 20-fold increase in North Dakota’s oil production in the past six years.
Today, the word “Bakken” has become synonymous with North Dakota. After all, the Bakken Shale Formation, along with the Three Forks Formation, now accounts for 12 percent of all of the United States’ oil production.
The Bakken Boom is paying huge dividends in North Dakota as it is creating thousands of good paying jobs in the western part of the state, while pumping $50 million per day to North Dakota’s economy and infusing more than $11 million per day into the state’s coffers in oil and gas taxes. It is no wonder that the state leads the nation with the lowest unemployment rate and has seen its gross domestic product grow by a very robust 32 percent.
Because of the Bakken, the impacts are being felt across the country as the nation moves closer and closer to energy independence and becomes less reliant on unstable nations in the Middle East for our oil needs. And the demand from the Bakken is stretching across the country as suppliers tool up their factories to fill the need for everything from truck tires and heavy equipment, to frac sand and oil tankers. From chemicals to clothing, the demand for goods and services to meet the growth of the Bakken is helping the nation’s otherwise sluggish economy.
But, the Bakken is also completely changing the face of some of the communities in western North Dakota, most notably Watford City, which is quite literally sitting smack dab in the middle of all of the development. With new developments springing up out of the ground almost daily, the community is experiencing a building boom the likes of which it has never seen in its 100-year existence. The rush is not only on to build new homes and apartments, and new retail complexes, but soon the community will see construction begin on a new high school, a new healthcare complex and a new events center.
Because of the Bakken, it is a fair estimate to say that within the next decade, Watford City will be forever changed from the once sleepy little community of 1,500 people, to a bustling energy hub of 15,000 permanent residents, as more and more energy companies establish their regional headquarters in the community and the temporary work force housing gives way to real homes.
The Bakken has proven it has the reserves to be a long-term resource that will continue to drive the state’s economy for a long, long time. And as the oil industry’s technology continues to improve, the recovery rate from each and every one of the tens of thousands of new wells yet to be drilled will be even better.
So what is the limit on North Dakota’s oil production? According to Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas Division, he expects North Dakota production to grow to 1.5 million barrels per day by 2017 before plateauing.
So, just how much is one billion barrels of oil per day? To put it into perspective, one million barrels of oil will:
• Supply your house with power until the year 83286.
• Drive a Toyota Prius to the sun and back 34 times.
• Fly a private jet from Louisiana to London 263,808 times.
• Power all the U.S. auto traffic for 3.9 hours.
• Power the total world’s energy use for 8 minutes.
• Power the country of Ghana for 20 days.
• Meet the yearly energy need for 22,890 Americans.
• Generate $989,481,786 of GDP in America.
• Power Boston’s John Hancock Tower through 2060.
• Replace 448,488 tons of firewood.
• Produce 471,343 tons of steel.
Now multiply that times 365 and you can begin to realize just how big that one million barrels per day really is.