Oil-field optimism

Lindberg: Oil patch making comeback

An increase in activity in North Dakota’s oil patch is bringing optimism back to the area.

“After 2014 we had a tough couple years and lost about 13,000 jobs in the industry. That’s coming back now,” said Rob Lindberg, director of Bakken Backers, a coalition formed about five years ago and comprised of businesses, leaders, workers and citizens who support North Dakota’s oil and gas industry.

Lindberg, of Bismarck, spoke recently to the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Committee.

With oil prices plummeting about two years ago, North Dakota’s oil boom, better known as “The Bakken,” slowed down and many people working in the oil field left the state. That is changing now and being contributed to a number of reasons including a rise in oil prices and a friendlier oil production climate from the Trump administration.

Despite the recent lows experienced in the oil and gas industry, Lindberg said the Bakken remains special.

“In the history of the world there’s only been 10 formations to ever hit one million barrels per day and we’ve got one of them,” he said.

“The Bakken’s really a special place. Most of the companies operating in the Bakken generally rank it either as their No. 1 or No. 2 asset in the entire world,” he said. For example, he said Hess, a worldwide player, has 33 percent of its production now coming from the Bakken.

The most recent information available from the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources reports the state produced 1.025 million barrels a day of oil in March.The state dropped below a million barrels of oil a day for awhile during the slowdown in the oil patch but climbed back up again.

According to information provided by Lindberg:

® North Dakota is a top oil producer for the nation.

® North Dakota is the United States’ second largest producer and is the 19th largest producer of oil in the world.

® North Dakota’s total oil production was 380 million barrels in 2016.

® The state produced an average of 1.19 million barrels of oil and 1.5 million MCF of natural gas per day in 2016.

® The top five oil-producing counties in the state are McKenzie, Mountrail, Dunn, Williams and Divide.

® In 2016, North Dakota produced 2.47 trillion cubic feet of oil and natural gas and sold 512 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

® The state has seen an 852 percent increase in annual oil production since 2006 when the Bakken play production began.

® In 2016, the average cost of drilling and completing a well in North Dakota was $6.7 million.

® With the U.S. Forest Service, the petroleum industry has reclaimed 824 well sites and 243 miles of road in the Little Missouri National Grasslands in western North Dakota.

® On average, 35 rigs operated in North Dakota in 2016. The all-time high was 218 on May 29, 2012.

Rig county numbers have gone up in recent months. As of Monday, 50 rigs were actively drilling in the state, acording to the N.D. Oil and Gas Division, a division of the Mineral Resources Department.

“Shale changed North Dakota,” Lindberg said.

He said North Dakota has been producing oil and gas since oil was discovered in the state in 1951. For many years the state produced 35,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil a day. Then, he said about a decade or more ago in North Dakota’s bordering state, Montana, the fracking revolution took off.

Fracking along with horizontal drilling really ramped up several years ago. “We knew the Bakken was there, we knew it had a lot of oil in the rock,” Lindberg said. “We never really knew how to take that oil out until horizontal drilling combined with fracturing.”

As of 2005, North Dakota had 5,000 jobs in the industry plus some fracking and drilling crews, Lindberg said. Today, he said the number of jobs directly in the industry has increased 10-fold or more along with 23,000 supporting the industry or secondary jobs.

“The future is still incredibly bright,” Lindberg said. He said Harold Hamm has said North Dakota could go as high as 100,000 wells. Oklahoma oil billionaire Hamm is chairman and CEO of Continental Resoures.

Currently, the state has a preliminary new all-time high of 13,632 producing wells, according to the Mineral Resources Department.

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