The Three Affiliated Tribes own an interest share in two wells which are being drilled on the Fort Berthold Reservation, said Tribal Chairman Marcus Levings.
The wells are east of Mandaree and south of Parshall near Lake Sakakawea. With the addition of these two wells, the tribe now has an interest in several wells either being drilled or producing on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
The drilling of the well near Mandaree is being done by the Grey Wolf 517 rig and the operator is Zenergy Operating Co., LLC., tribal officials said.
Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Marcus Levings, left, and Spencer Wilkinson Jr. of Dakota 3 exploration production company, stand near the Dakota-3 Nathan Hale 3-18H well near Mandaree, shown in this Dec. 18 photo. The tribe has an interest in the well near Mandaree and another well in the Parshall area which is being drilled.
The Mandaree area well is named Dakota-3 Nathan Hale 3-18H, in honor and remembrance of the late Nathan Hale, who was Mandaree representative to the tribal business council until his death.
The well in the Parshall area was made possible through Questar E & P Co., of Denver, and is known as the MHA 1-18H-150-90 well.
Fred Fox, administrator of the tribal Energy Department, said the two wells by Questar and Zenergy are part of the Indian Minerals Development Act Agreement with the tribe.
Fox said the tribe also has an interest in a Marathon well, which is producing in the Four Bears area of the reservation. That well was drilled in 2008.
The tribe also has an interest in two EOG Resources wells currently being drilled in the Parshall Field, Fox said.
He said the tribe also has interest in a well west of New Town which was drilled many years ago and is producing.
To date, at least 95 percent of tribal mineral acres have been leased by various oil companies, said Fox. That amounts to 195,000 tribal acres leased for minerals.
Levings, who changed his name recently from Marcus Wells Jr. to Marcus Levings, said with the arrival of 2009, the tribe is moving in a new direction and taking the next steps in the oil and gas industry process.
The permitting process for not only the tribe but for individual Indian mineral owners as well was becoming an issue because of the lengthy amount of time mineral owners and the tribe were having to wait for permits for drilling to begin, tribal officials said. The permits are issued through the Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Area Office in Aberdeen, S.D.
"Progress is actually starting to improve and we at the tribe hope with the one-stop shop policy for the drilling permit process that things will move faster," said Fox. "Both sites took approximately nine months before drilling permits were issued."
"Our goal is to minimize the permit process which has been averaging anywhere from six to nine months for individual Indian mineral owners and the tribe, down to three to four months," Fox said.
North Dakota's congressional delegation has been working to speed up the leasing and issuing of permits for oil and gas development on the reservation.
A proposal, first made by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., earlier this year, calls for the Department of Interior to establish an office at Fort Berthold that would house officials for the four Interior Department agencies involved in approving oil and gas development permits and leases on Indian lands.
Early last month, the congressional delegation spoke with U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, urging him to open an "oil and gas one-stop shop" on Fort Berthold to expedite leasing and issuing permits. Kempthrone agreed to their request to work to open the office before he leaves his post this month, barring any unforeseen complications. He agreed to report to the delegation on his progress by early this month.
The BIA Aberdeen Area Office is presently conducting a 90-day environmental assessment on possible drilling and well sites throughout the reservation, tribal officials said.
With the completion of the assessment, Fox said it will also assist in expediting the drilling permit process.
Plans are for more wells to be drilled in 2009, Fox said.