July 6, 2017


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

While McKenzie County may never again see the historic level oil activity that it saw in 2013 and 2014 at the height of the development of the Bakken Oil Formation, contrary to what some people may believe the oil industry in western North Dakota has hardly gone bust.
Without a doubt, the state’s oil patch counties and communities took a big hit to their economies when oil plunged from its heyday of $100-plus and the number of drilling rigs plummeted. But it wasn’t just the oil-producing region of the state that suffered with the drop in oil prices and the subsequent slowdown in the oil industry. Across the board, North Dakota felt the impact as sales tax collections dropped significantly from the record highs in 2014, which impacted city, county and state tax collections.
McKenzie County and Watford City suffered along with everyone else during this downturn. But, there was some comfort in knowing that we are in the “sweet spot” of the Bakken. And that meant that while drilling came to a virtual complete stop elsewhere in western North Dakota, drilling activity continued here, 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.
That is exactly what is now happening.
And while the resurgence that the county is now seeing in increased drilling activity, as well as the completion of previously drilled wells, is not at the level that we saw in those “crazy years,” it is definitely good news.
And the rebound in oil activity is showing up in our economy as well as taxable sales and purchases in the first quarter of 2017 showed a nine percent increase from 2016, while the state’s taxable sales and purchases, as a whole, continued the two-year downward trend.
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 has 3,727 wells in production (roughly 27 percent of the state’s wells).
• The county has 4,280 wells that are capable of producing oil and natural gas (27 percent of the state’s total).
• In April, McKenzie County produced 40 percent of the state’s oil production with a preliminary estimate of 12,763,840 barrels. The second highest oil-producing county was Mountrail with 5,991,704 barrels.
• In April, McKenzie County produced 52 percent of the state’s natural gas with a preliminary estimate of 28,882,772 mcf. Williams County came in a distant second with 9,291,898 mcf.
• And 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.