The Greatest Influence

By Luke Geiver | April 22, 2013

The oil patch is evolving. The change may be slower or smaller than some might hope, but it is happening, spreading from the well site outward to frack sand mines in Wisconsin, logistics offices in North Dakota and well-completion technology centers in Calgary, Manitoba. Just four years ago, race, rush and other words depicting the frenetic pace and pressure faced by operators securing lease acreage through drilling or production activity were accurate. Today, the atmosphere of the play is still frenetic but it is influenced by different factors, and best described by different words. 

We spoke with operators and nonoperators for the May issue to help explain the current state of drilling and production. The new buzz in the Bakken is now less about fulfilling lease terms and retrieving oil for a return on investment and more about applying new strategies. The new approaches will reduce overall production costs and decrease the above-ground footprint needed for drilling rigs, pump jacks and storage tanks. So, efficiency is the new buzz. It affects every facet of the region. 

The majority of all acreage today in the Bakken region is Held By Production, a term that indicates a lessee has fulfilled lease terms and has the rights to any production in those acres for the lifespan of any wells brought online within the boundaries of the leased acres. Because of that, drilling teams and production companies are not as focused on getting the first well in the ground as they are in building the infrastructure and setup needed to sustain a spacing unit (1,280 acres) for multiple wells over multiple years. They are planning for infill development, an approach predicated on surrounding a proven well with more wells. This means a rig could be on a single site longer, and planning protocols used in 2009 by water supply or disposal teams, oilfield service providers and others must be tweaked for current conditions. 

With evolution comes innovation. Included in this issue are the stories of several innovators who are streamlining the Bakken. Software company Qv21 Technologies has designed an e-ticket tracking system specifically for Android operating systems that makes conducting business more efficient by wirelessly recording miles, loads and hours. The reduction of paper ticket usage is a prime example of how innovation connects to evolution. 

To truly understand what the combination of evolution, changing strategies and innovation look like, imagine it this way. The current Bakken landscape is similar to a housing subdivision, as Tom Rolfstad, executive director for the Williston Economic Development office, explains. One well on the horizon may seem oddly placed, but it is only one of many that will someday make up a well-ordered grid that will take years to develop. 


Luke Geiver
The Bakken magazine