BISMARCK The North Dakota Oil and Gas Division announced Wednesday it has issued four drilling permits in the southeastern Williston Basin, an area where permits usually aren't issued.
Two permits were issued in Emmons County and two in McIntosh County to Strata-X Energy.
"The division wanted to make this announcement because it is so rare to see anything issued this far east of Highway 83," said Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. The Oil and Gas Division is a division of the department.
"These permits are a part of an exploratory program known as 'wildcatting,' " Helms said.
One of the sites in McIntosh County is nine miles west of Wishek and the other site is 10 miles south of Wishek, said Alison Ritter, public information officer for the N.D. Department of Mineral Resources. She said both of the sites in Emmons County are 10 miles east of Linton.
According to the Strata-X Energy website, the Denver-based company has acquired the rights to and intends to develop four prospective structures for shallow Niobrara gas in this southeastern Williston Basin. It owns options and leases to a 100 percent working interest in about 145,000 net mineral acres (190,000 gross acres) of currently leased land.
Called the Sleeping Giant Project, it is located on relatively flat agricultural lands with existing roads and infrastructure, the website reports.
The Niobrara Formation is a significant petroleum system in the U.S., and Strata-X Energy reports in its website there has been relatively little drilling in the Sleeping Giant prospect area.
"The limited drilling there has been located off structure from these gas prospects with prior wells predominantly targeting deeper Cretaceous or Paleozoic targets. The Niobrara Formation in this area has been overlooked despite gas shows and small flares being reported. In the mid-2000s, four wells were drilled in this part of North Dakota to test shallow gas shows. None of them were completed as all were drilled off-structure for the Niobrara gas play," the website said.
Staghorn Energy, LLC attempted a drilling program in 2006 in Emmons County, targeting the Greenhorn, which is abut 400 feet below the Niobrara. All wells drilled were uneconomic, according to North Dakota officials.
Helms said Strata-X will evaluate the results from the wells to determine if future drilling could be economically viable. If successful, a more intense drilling program would still be many years away.
The permits are on confidential status, which by law restricts information the division can release to the public for a period of six months from the start of drilling. The division can release the name of the operator, well name, well location, spacing or drilling unit description, drilling date and production sold.
Drilling permits expire after one year, but the operator may request a one-year extension, state officials said.