New players are starting to drill in the margins of the Bakken-Three Forks area, said the states' top oil and gas regulator.
"There are a lot of new players coming in the Renegades, the Chesapeakes, the Devons... that want to be in the oil play, and they're willing to take the risk of playing out here on the margins," Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, told members of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce's Energy Committee.
Helms, of Bismarck, spoke to the group Thursday in the Vegas Motel.
"It's actually happening a little bit sooner than I thought it would be," said Helms.
"I thought we've got to get through that five years securing a leasehold time," Helms said. After that, he said he thought some of the big oil companies, naming Hess, Continental Resources and others, in the state then would move into those areas "and look at the more risky stuff, but at this oil price newcomers are willing to come in and lease and work some of these areas."
He said a Renville County Three Forks well in a higher risk area done by a Canadian company recently came in.
"Renegade Resources is really excited about this area," Helms said.
He said the well was sourced right in the neighborhood.
"We don't know yet where," he added.
"So there are localized or maybe larger regional areas of mature source rock much lot closer to Minot straight north than over in this mature area," Helms said, indicating a map of the western North Dakota oil patch.
"The eastern edge is far from dead," Helms said.
"The Renegade well really demonstrates eastward expansion of this play into northern Ward County. It's really good news for northern Ward County and for Renville and western Bottineau (counties)," he said.
As far as other areas of Ward County, he said, "We'll just have to wait and see."
However, he pointed out the Minot area is getting a lot of the economic benefits.
"But so far in terms of production, the good news is the north end of the county," Helms said.