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The Bakken formation has emerged in recent years as one of the most important sources of new oil production in the United States. Most Bakken drilling and production has been in North Dakota, although the formation also extends into Montana and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.


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As of , the Bakken was the source of more than ten percent of all US oil production. As a result of increased production from the Bakken, and long-term production declines in Alaska and California , North Dakota as of was the second-largest oil-producing state in the US, behind only Texas in volume of oil produced.

Bakken production has also increased in Canada , although to a lesser degree than in the US, since the discovery of the Viewfield Oil Field in Saskatchewan. The same techniques of horizontal drilling and multi-stage massive hydraulic fracturing are used. Most Bakken wells are drilled and completed in the middle member. Production is also enhanced by artificially fracturing the rock, [20] to allow oil to seep to the oil well.

Hydrogen sulfide H 2 S, also known as sour gas is found to varying degrees in crude petroleum. The gas is flammable, corrosive, poisonous, and explosive; thus, oil with higher levels of H 2 S presents challenges such as "health and environmental risks, corrosion of wellbore, added expense with regard to materials handling and pipeline equipment, and additional refinement requirements. However, increased concentration of H 2 S over time has been observed in some Bakken wells, believed to be due to certain completion practices, such as hydraulic fracturing into neighboring formations, and may contain high levels of H 2 S.

Desperately seeking workers in the oil patch

Increased US oil production from hydraulically fractured tight oil wells in formations such as the Bakken was mostly responsible for the decrease in US oil imports since A research paper by USGS geochemist Leigh Price in estimated the total amount of oil contained in the Bakken shale ranged from to billion barrels 4. If he was right, the large amounts of oil remaining in this formation would make it a prime oil exploration target. Price died in before his research could be peer-reviewed and published.


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The drilling and production successes in much of the Bakken beginning with the Elm Coulee Oil Field discovery in have proven correct his claim that the oil generated by the Bakken shale was there. Although the amount of oil in place is a very large oil resource, the percentage that can be extracted with current technology is another matter.

In April the USGS released this report, which estimated the amount of technically recoverable, undiscovered oil in the Bakken formation at 3. In , a senior manager at Continental Resources Inc.

Most recent

CLR declared that the "Bakken play in the Williston basin could become the world's largest discovery in the last 30—40 years," as ultimate recovery from the overall play is now estimated at 24 billion barrels 3. While these technologies have been consistently in use since the s, the Bakken trend is the place where they are being most heavily used: Some believe that waterflooding can raise the recovery factor at Viewfield from 19 percent to more than 30 percent, adding 1.

The Bakken formation has produced oil since , when a North Dakota well was completed in the Bakken. A major advance in extracting oil from the Bakken came in , when geologist Dick Findley realized that the dolomitic Middle member of the Bakken Formation was a better exploration target than the upper or lower members. Although the middle member held less oil in place than the organic shales both above and below, it was able to maintain open fractures more than the shales.

Horizontal wells in the middle Bakken were used successfully to develop the Elm Coulee Field in Montana.

North Dakota's oil boom - Photo 1 - Pictures - CBS News

Elm Coulee was key to later Bakken development because it combined horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing, and targeted the dolomitic middle Bakken member rather than the shales of the upper or lower Bakken. The Parshall Oil Field discovery, combined with other factors, including an oil-drilling tax break enacted by the state of North Dakota in , [44] shifted attention in the Bakken from Montana to the North Dakota side. According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, daily oil production per well reached a plateau at barrels in June Although the number of wells tripled between June and December , oil production per well remained essentially unchanged.

However, as more wells were brought online, total oil produced continued to increase until it peaked in mid at 1. The increase ended because of a slow decline in daily production per well that began in , down to barrels in mid A number of publicly traded oil and gas companies have drilling rigs in the Bakken trend.

There are several companies whose Bakken holdings and tight oil expertise may have made them attractive takeover targets. One MonDaks initiative over the past four or five years was atmosphere monitoring on oil and gas well and storage tank sites, Genet said, after a series of workers, including Bergsing, died from H2S gas exposure around With 40 percent of injuries and fatalities happening while workers are on the road, MonDaks also formed a Transport and Transmission Committee to address road safety.

Bremseth also said, by leveling civil suits against companies for negligence, he and others in his profession have hope the monetary damages will serve as a deterrent to others. For Brenda Austin, there has been no feeling of closure and she felt more should have been done.

She thinks law enforcement should have asked more questions. Brenda Austin and her husband have gone to the crash site several times since the accident, erecting a big metal cross and putting out flowers. Brenda Austin said her son was the type to lend a hand when something was needed. The two became close friends because of it. He rebuilt his first one at age 14 and would have liked to run his own automotive shop. Thank you!

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North Dakota's oil boom

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