Beyond Rig Count, the Bakken is Busy

By Luke Geiver | November 27, 2015

When people ask the Bakken’s top oil and gas regulation team if they are struggling to stay busy, they laugh and say no. That is what Alison Ritter, the know-everything communications lead for the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas division told us when we asked what has changed, or will change in 2016. Her response seemed fitting for this issue because, as you’ll see, there is a lot going on in the Bakken––and the current activity will be instrumental in the positive evolution of the Bakken next year and for many years to come.

In line with the never-ending efforts of producers and tech providers to better utilize the associated gas produced during Williston Basin oil retrieval, a multistakeholder group including Hess Corp., Environmentally Friendly Drilling, ElectraTherm and Gulf Coast Energy combined resources for a unique project. EFD consists of some of the biggest oil brand names in the world—Shell, Chevron and Schlumberger, for example; ElectraTherm and GCE are established in their industry niches, and Hess is one of the largest-by-volume oil producers operating in the Bakken today. Staff Writer and photographer Patrick C. Miller followed the project aimed at turning associated gas into boiler-based power for several months before completing the story, on page 20, for print. As Miller explains, the concept for the project may have been simple, but the results were promising.

In the midst of covering the project, Miller also discovered that in the Bakken, one thing truly does lead to another. He found out about an Iraqi delegation that had chosen the Bakken as its destination to learn about a worldwide oilfield dilemma: flaring. We have the story of what the delegation took away from its visit. We also have an update on the efforts of an ethane-focused entity to turn a Bakken gas stream into plastic. Badlands NGL has made a choice on the technology it will someday deploy to convert ethane into common plastic. Through a 13-step process, Bakken gas can be turned into pelletized plastic, as our page-9 story details.

Drilling and completion activity has slowed, but the activities linked to greater oilfield development—from infrastructure protocol planning to well-site power option testing—make the Bakken as busy as ever. When we asked Ritter, and Todd Porter, a state representative well-known for his energy work, each pointed to new pipeline development activity as a reason to be positive about the Bakken in 2016. Next year, regulators and industry will have an unprecedented understanding on the best ways to install, design and test pipeline infrastructure. The importance of that work was best explained by Porter, and is proof that a busy Bakken in the midst of a well completion slowdown could be beneficial to future activity levels. The next time the Bakken ramps up to 2009 levels (200-plus drilling rigs), Porter says, “Producing regions should be in a really good position to stay ahead of it.”

Luke Geiver
The Bakken magazine