November 21, 2008

North Dakota shooting

North Dakota shooting

for fourth in oil production

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series about and gas activity in Mountrail County and northwestern North Dakota

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By MARVIN BAKER

Oil officials knew about the lucrative Bakken Formation way back in 1951 when oil was first discovered near Tioga but technology prevented anyone from accessing it deep underground.

That’s all changed with today’s horizontal drilling technology and as current seismic activity technology improves, it’s being realized the Bakken may be slightly bigger than previously thought.

In fact, an outer fringe area of the Bakken called "Three Forks," stretches from the Manitoba border in eastern North Dakota southwest to the Standing Rock Reservation and back up into east central Montana and Saskatchewan.

"We knew about the Bakken in ’51, but the technology held us to vertical," said Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division. "We could drill horizontal in the ‘80s but could only get to the upper crust of the Bakken shale."

Now Three Forks holds some promise for a greater pool of oil under North Dakota, but in 2008, the price of crude oil is going to determine drilling activity in the Three Forks, rather than drilling efficiency, according to Helms. As crude continues to drop, the concern grows in western North Dakota.

The good news is, drilling for oil in Mountrail, McKenzie and Dunn counties is the most cost effective and within that perimeter, it’s the Parshall/Sanish field that holds the most promise.

"The Parshall/Sanish field is by far the most successful field in North Dakota, Montana, Manitoba or Saskatchewan," Helms said. "Work around Parshall here has very good economics, even with lower prices. There may be some retraction on the fringe, but not here."


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