Conference speakers say the Bakken has a lot going for it

By Patrick C. Miller | July 18, 2017

The 2017 Bakken Conference & Expo got underway Monday at the Bismarck Events Center with a preconference session called “Bakken versus the World” to examine how North Dakota’s shale play compares to others in the U.S.

Mike Filloon, founder and analyst for Hartstreet LLC, said some enhanced completions in the Bakken are using more than 10 million pounds of proppant, but the average is around 5 million pounds. Ceramics are beginning to fall out of favor, although he said there has been a resurgence of slickwater fracks in the Bakken. He noted that the technique is less popular in the Three Forks formation. He said the continuity of production results remains best in the core of the Bakken where laterals of 8,000 to 12,000 feet are common.

The Meridian Energy Group expects to have its new 55,000-barrel-per-day Davis Refinery operating in Billings County near Fryberg, North Dakota, by 2018. Company CEO William Prentice explained why the Bakken makes sense for the refinery’s location.

“We see plenty of Bakken crude here for us and we have a high-level fondness for it,” he said. “It’s a processor’s dream. You can’t find anything that’s much better. The refinery will be clean without additional capital investment. We think the Bakken will produce everything we need for the life of this refinery.”

While much of the national media portrays the Bakken as if its best days are far behind it, Cindy Sanford, customer service office manager at the Williston Job Service North Dakota office, helped put that idea to rest. Although oil and gas activity has slowed, school enrollment rates and birth rates have continued to grow.

The completion of infrastructure improvements has resulted in many families deciding to make the region their home, which she said explains why most homes sold are to first-time buyers. Better living conditions and an increase in non-oilfield jobs have attracted more women, Sanford said.

During a recent visit to western North Dakota, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said there were 10 men for every woman in the Bakken. Sanford corrected that misconception, noting that there are 49 percent women and 51 percent men in the region. The need for truck drivers and mechanics is ongoing, she said.

Daniel Stenberg, McKenzie County Economic Development coordinator, further emphasized how long-time residents and newcomers have benefited from the completion of infrastructure improvements, such as a truck bypass around the town of Watford City to relieve traffic congestion.

“So much changed so quickly,” Stenberg said of Watford City’s 260 percent population increase. “Most residents welcomed it because it would have been a dying community if change hadn’t happened.”

A new non-profit daycare center has alleviated what was once a contentious issue for working parents. Stenberg said the community is working with the University of Mary and Williston State College on workforce development programs offering degreed programs and college credits.

The town’s new Roughrider Center is home to a club hockey team and has swimming and gymnastics facilities. Next year, it will host the Bakken Conference & Expo.