The Other Resource

By Luke Geiver | June 24, 2013

The coexistence of water and oil in the Bakken play has been well documented. As this month’s feature article shows, the two are very similar, each presenting issues and challenges, but also opportunities for expansion, innovation and resolution. Both are resources necessary to produce many other resources and, not surprisingly of both, everyone wants more. We spoke with water authority executives and private business decision makers to provide an update on the ways water is impacting the play, and in some cases, enhancing it. 

Infrastructure development––storage, transport and treatment––is the main challenge to providing water for both industrial and residential use for Mary Massad, manager and CEO for the Southwest Water Authority, and Jaret Wirtz, executive director of the Western Area Water Supply Authority. Their organizations are responsible for managing the water supply in southwestern and northwestern portions of North Dakota, respectively. The amount of water available isn’t the issue, they say. It is finding the appropriate methods and scale to move water from an inlet or aquifer to a new housing development or a hydraulic fracturing water supply facility. A growing population of people and well sites complicates Wirtz’s ability to predict future water needs. But, on the positive side, oil companies and community leaders, Wirtz included, are implementing creative strategies to deal with the increasing needs. 

In some instances, oil production firms of various sizes are partnering on a pipeline supply grid to move the water to a well site or to a treatment facility. The trend will help to reduce the amount of truck traffic. In addition, water depots and saltwater disposal sites are continuing to open. No matter who we spoke too, every conversation reiterated a common theme that made it clear in the Bakken and the communities impacted by oil production, the standard phrase many of us know doesn’t apply: Water and oil do mix. 

We also spoke with suppliers to the oil and gas industry who have entered the Bakken market with innovative products and services and are finding success. They emphasize how important it is for companies interested in doing business in the play to demonstrate their product in person and to thoroughly highlight the product’s main advantage. For companies and organizations headquartered outside of the Williston Basin, Keith Lund and his team at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Regional Economic Development Corp. offer an example of how firms can access the Bakken.


Luke Geiver
The Bakken magazine