July 4, 2018


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

While McKenzie County may never again see the historic level of oil activity that it saw in 2013 and 2014 when $100-plus oil prices resulted in a record number of drilling rigs operating in the county at the height of the development of the Bakken Oil Formation, the oil industry never left the county. Without a doubt, when oil prices plummeted, every oil patch community in the state, as well as North Dakota as a whole, took an economic hit as the oil industry stepped back and took a hard look at how they could still make money in the Bakken.
McKenzie County and Watford City suffered along with everyone else during this downturn.
But, there was some comfort in knowing that the county is truly in the “sweet spot” of the Bakken. Which meant that even though drilling activity came to a virtual complete stop elsewhere in western North Dakota, drilling activity continued in McKenzie County, although at a slower pace. And there was the expectation that once oil prices stabilized at a profitable level and when oil companies started to ramp up their activity again, McKenzie County would be one of the first places that they would begin completing wells and resume drilling new wells.
And that is what happened. By reducing costs and improving well efficiencies, oil companies did figure out how to make money during the lean years when oil prices were low. And now that oil prices have climbed back into the upper $60 to lower $70 per barrel range, the Bakken is definitely back as operators are pushing to get drilled, but uncompleted wells online, they are punching new wells into the ground, and they are building new gas plants and natural gas gathering systems.
That resurgence in increased oil and natural gas activity is definitely good news and that rebound in oil activity showed up in 2017 as our local taxable sales and purchases grew by 27 percent. And during the first three months of 2018, we saw those sales grow by over 40 percent compared to the same period in 2017.
So where does McKenzie County stand when it comes to being a producer of oil and natural gas in North Dakota? The answer is No. 1. And No. 1 by a long shot.
Here are some interesting tidbits of information from the April production numbers by the North Dakota Department of Minerals:
• McKenzie County saw its number of producing wells increase from 3,727 in 2017 to 4,071 in 2018, an increase of 344 wells.
• The county has 4,670 wells that are capable of producing oil and natural gas.
• In April, McKenzie County produced 40 percent of the state’s oil production with a preliminary estimate of 14,777,285 barrels, up from 12,763,840 barrels last year.
• In April, McKenzie County produced 51 percent of the state’s natural gas with a preliminary estimate of 34,204,371 mcf of natural gas, up from 28,882,772 mcf last year.
• Since oil was first discovered in North Dakota, McKenzie County became the first county in the state, and one of the few counties in the nation, to produce one billion barrels of oil.


Whoever said that there is never anything fun to do with the entire family in McKenzie County obviously didn’t take in all of the events of Watford City’s Homefest or Arnegard’s 4th of July festivities the past two weeks. Both of these popular events were packed with opportunities for the whole family to enjoy some of what McKenzie County does so well when it comes to community celebrations.
And this week, the arrival of the McKenzie County Fair in Watford City caps off what has been a very busy start of our summer season.
You can just call it another fun-filled week in McKenzie County! Because that is what it is going to be with the fair providing three full days of family fun with tons of free shows, youth activities, a carnival, a youth rodeo, a draft horse competition, as well as the excitement of a Demolition Derby and a NDRA Rodeo.
So, if you are looking for another great family outing, don’t miss the fun and entertainment at this year’s McKenzie County Fair.