Hundreds of trucks travel on roads in the oil patch each day and those numbers aren't expected to decrease as oil development continues.
Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck, explained to members of Vision West ND the role of trucks and their numbers in the oil development in western North Dakota as part of a model with future projections.
Vision West ND, a grant-funded project, is looking at infrastructure, quality of life and other needs in the oil patch. The group met last week at Minot's Holiday Inn Riverside.
Many trucks are on the roads in the oil patch in western North Dakota, like this one on N.D. Highway 23 east of New Town. Studies are being done in the state to look at various issues, including truck numbers and how trucks are used in the oil patch.
"Right now to get that well to the production phase there's virtually 35 jobs that are fully dedicated just to driving trucks," Helms told Vision West ND participants.
"This is what is happening in the trucking world today. They don't all come in a nice, steady stream. If you lived out there by one, you would know that," he said.
"You have the initial amount of trucking that first month as they're building the road in the location. Then all of a sudden they start bringing the drilling rig in and the number of trucks per day jumps way up to about 25," Helms said.
During the drilling operations for about three weeks, he said, the number of trucks drops back off to about 10 trucks a day at this same location. "It jumps back up to about 25 as they move the rig off and everything goes quiet for three to four months," he said.
Then in a span of about 10 days, he said more than 800 semis are at that site. He said these trucks bring in frack tanks, fill the frack tanks with water and sand is brought in. He said 80-some truckloads are brought in and 80-empties go out every day for 10 days as they prepare that well for fracking. Once the well is fracked, then everything is moved off the site.
"Then they go into the production phase where they're trucking the oil off and then hopefully, they connect it to a pipeline," Helms said.
The picture changes slightly with multi well pads, he said. "One is that the rig doesn't move off after every well. It stays there," he said.
Helms' model also was based on multi-well pads in 2014-2015
As it stands right now, he said, a frack crew can only do 40 wells a year. However, he said he's had recent meetings with industry people who estimate by the end of next year they can get their frack crews up to 60 wells a year per frack crew. "That may take some of the pressure off the need to grow the number of frackers in the state," Helms said.
Helms was asked how that will work in Mountrail County where they have a well on every section and don't have pad drilling. Is there a way to get the multi-pad drilling there?
"Yes, there is. In fact, we've been applying as much pressure as we can to Mountrail oil companies to get them to move to this," Helms said. He said the companies in Mountrail said if they could do it over again, they would have done the multi-pad program.
Helms said the state now is writing orders, such as in McKenzie County, for some 18-well pads.
Even with the multi-pad program, he said, truckers aren't going to be going out of business. "There's still so many trucks that it really boggles your mind," he said.