Revisiting The Bakken’s Long-Term Viability

Amidst the economic hurdles industry in the Bakken is currently jumping over, weaving past or avoiding altogether, there continues a push to improve the play— including things we can’t see with the naked eye.
By Luke Geiver | July 22, 2016

Amidst the economic hurdles industry in the Bakken is currently jumping over, weaving past or avoiding altogether, there continues a push to improve the play— including things we can’t see with the naked eye. This summer, our team again tackles the topics of flaring and gas production, to highlight an industry trend or change in operating procedures. Through his work on- and off-the-record with multiple sources, staff writer Patrick C. Miller writes about how industry, regulators and makers of thermal imagery cameras work to better understand and curb fugitive gas emissions from Bakken well sites and hydrocarbon storage facilities. 

The new methane reduction goals set by the U.S. EPA and the topic of fugitive methane emissions are coming into the spotlight this year. The industry, along with the EPA and the North Dakota Department of Health, is working to research, detect and measure fugitive emissions from storage tanks or gathering lines. In some cases, a thermal imagery camera can reveal when, where or if fugitive emissions are present and give all parties involved a starting place to proceed with any follow-up work.

At the 2016 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, there was a wide variety of topics we gained new information that will soon be appearing in print or online. The WBPC this year was like no other. Uncertainty over low oil prices was a huge element of the event, along with the looming U.S. presidential election and the impacts that may follow if particular candidates win this fall.

We compiled information on oil prices, future activity levels, rig count changes, refracks and even the sentiment of Donald Trump on U.S. energy development. As I sat in the crowd during the event, I vividly remember making a note and highlighting a group of stats that say a lot about the Bakken today and how we should speak about the play’s long-term viability with those in and outside of the industry.

The broad nature of the topic is something anyone familiar with the Bakken can gravitate toward and discuss, and it merits being written about again: More than 31,000 new Bakken wells have received a permit or are in the planning stages by operators. What more do we need to remember that this play is a long-term endeavor and that, as one prominent Bakken CEO said during the event, “we need to hang in there”? To put it into perspective, it will require roughly 65,000 wells to potentially exhaust the Bakken’s resources. To date, there are roughly 11,000. Despite how it might feel or sound at times of low oil prices, the Bakken isn’t just something people believe in, it’s something they are trying to constantly invest in.