When Wayne Biberdorf was asked to speak at a meeting about Bakken boom impacts and solutions, he hesitated a bit about the solution part.
"But then I realized we are seeing solutions, and they are developing," said Biberdorf.
Biberdorf, of Williston, is North Dakota's energy impact coordinator. Gov. Jack Dalrymple named him to that position in March.
File Photo • Wayne Biberdorf speaks to the Minot Rotary Club in 2010. At that time he was director of North Dakota projects for Hess. Biberdorf now is North Dakota’s energy impact coordinator, a position he was named to earlier this year.
During the announcement the governor said Biberdorf will work to meet the region's needs by enhancing the coordination between local officials, state officials and other stakeholders. Biberdorf has an office in Williston.
Biberdorf spoke Oct. 18 at the annual meeting of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties held at the Minot Holiday Inn Riverside.
He grew up on a farm in Bottineau County and graduated from Willow City High School in 1970. He started his career as a teacher in the Minot Public School System and also worked for Hess Corporation in Tioga where he held various engineer and management positions before retiring in 2010.
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He was inducted in the North Dakota Petroleum Council's Hall of Fame in 2009.
Biberdorf said he classifies Bakken boom issues into three categories: road, water or land use issues. Under each of those issues, he said, there's definitely other issues, for example, under roads there's issues including dust and aggressive driving.
At the recent annual meeting of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties, he told participants he has visited with a North Dakota Highway Patrol official about all the aggressive driving that is happening now in the impacted areas.
"We're accustomed to some pretty courteous driving and that's not really happening as we see this influx coming in," Biberdorf said. "It's a learning experience for those of us that have lived here all of our lives that have to pay attention to this. It is changing, whether we like it or not. We have to become better drivers."
He said some drivers who have never experienced driving in winter weather may need some extra training.
Referring to a map of the drilling activity in the Bakken and Three Forks formations, Biberdorf said the numbers are getting to a point where they have some meaning now.
"They start to tell the story of where the epicenter of the impact is, and to me that's important," he said.
"We're putting more and more wells into that impacted area. That's why I like to refer to it as the epicenter. Epicenter to me is you have every one of the issues (road, water, land use)," he said.
"And what's happening in that impact area? Biberdorf asked.
When he first looked at it, he said he saw numbers and years.
But then observed:
"What struck me was the fact that we're moving from a construction phase into a maintenance phase," Biberdorf said.
"I think that is significant when you talk about impact. What I mean by that is a drilling well in the industry is really a construction project. They're just putting that well together," he said.
Biberdorf said he likes to relate a drilling well to a highway construction project. "Those individuals working on that project may or may not live in this area, they may rotate in that's the life they lead when they're in that business," he said.
He said that construction project may not have as much of an impact to the local communities per se as the maintenance impact will be.
Possible solutions for the Bakken boom are in play, Biberdorf said.
Lynn Helms, Bismarck, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, gave Biberdorf the highest number of wells being drilled on one pad. That number is 18.
Biberdorf said companies have to take a hard look at having all their fluid movements done by pipeline. He said if they can get pipeline in for the first well, it's going to pay dividends for the other wells at that pad.
"That's the important thing that the industry is actually doing," he said. He said it will have a huge impact on the road issue.
Biberdorf said a great deal of water is used for the completion of a well, but changes are on the horizon because efforts are being done to find different sources of water.
He said the truck routes for bypasses are important for a number of reasons but what he's observed is they allow cities to move forward.
With all the truck traffic in Williston, he said it was hard for development to occur because they were always looking at the traffic. As the bypasses open up, he said the development of the city has become a little more clear where it wants to go.
Time is another solution, Biberdorf said.
He said it isn't the fact that more time is needed but "time is becoming a very precious commodity as we deal with this impact."
He said it's important to look at the time it takes to get "from A to Z."
"Sometimes because time is so precious for elected officials, I almost look at it as one of the precious commodities out there," Biberdorf said, speaking to the oil and gas producing counties' group. "Look at the process. Is the process really fitting for what we're dealing with in this impacted area?"