Bakken primed for new round of activity

By North American Shale magazine staff | March 31, 2017

A coalition of businesses, leaders, workers and citizens believe the Bakken is well positioned to handle increased activity. “Industry has been spending billions of dollars on infrastructure in North Dakota,” said Dean Bangsund, an economist at North Dakota State University, who studies the impact of the oil and gas industry on the state. “It bodes well for what industry feels is available to them in North Dakota. I don’t think we’d see this investment if things were going the opposite direction.”

Bangsund joined other speakers during a one-day event held in March in North Dakota’s capital city Bismarck. The event is organized by Bakken Backers. Steve Johnson, vice president of government relations at ONEOK and ONEOK Partners, added credence to Bangsund’s statements. In the past five to seven years, ONEOK has invested $3.5 billion in North Dakota pipelines, gathering systems and processing plants. “Our focus in 2017 is to expand gathering systems to meet completed and uncompleted wells. In the last seven years or so, we’ve been trying to catch up with everything that’s been going on,” he said. “Now we’re almost at the point where we can keep up. We’re willing to invest hundreds of millions more dollars as needed.”

Trey Wilson, CEO of MBI Energy Services, said that although the low-oil-price environment forced his company to drop roughly 1,300 employees, he sees a change coming. “We will be adding hundreds of jobs and our competitors will be doing the same thing,” he said. “Drilling activity is a huge drive for the need of oilfield services.” In March, the state had roughly 44 rigs running, up 10 from the same time in 2016.

As the rig count continues to increase and frack crews work down drilled but yet to be completed wells, Wilson believes North Dakota is in a better position now than it was the last time activity levels ramped. “I’m tremendously impressed with the growth of infrastructure; this is a wonderful place to live and work,” Wilson said. “We have to do a better job of telling the rest of the country what’s going on here, why it’s a good place to work and raise a family. North Dakota has a lot to offer.”