Shale Season Is Here

By Luke Geiver | June 22, 2018

Early summer is definitely shale season. Pressure pumpers, hotshot drivers, water haulers, pipeliners, engineers and just about any other sector of the industry is active, on-site or driving from field site to field site.  Staff writer and photographer, Patrick C. Miller, witnessed this season’s activity first hand during a recent photoshoot held near the heart of the Bakken shale play. According to Miller, areas of the Bakken that he hadn’t considered busy during past trips were noticeably different—and undoubtedly active—this year.
In this issue, we offer a special look at the Bakken, taking advantage of a major May event held biennially in North Dakota that brings together an impressive number of Bakken-focused personnel. (Two years ago then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was the keynote). Based on his interviews and notes from the event, Miller reports the Bakken is officially back.

On a well-to-well basis, many operators leveraged to the Williston believe netbacks from a Bakken well are as good, or usually better, than any well—anywhere in North America. In North Dakota, many operators are generating a netback equivalent to the price of West Texas Intermediate plus about $2. In the Permian, where investors and companies have been focused the past two years, netbacks are typically WTI minus $9 due to infrastructure bottlenecks.

This summer, production records for both oil and gas will be broken in the Bakken. Major entities are talking—or building—huge, high-dollar processing facilities or even enhanced oil recovery that could take even more oil from the ground utilizing associated gas rich with ethane, methane and propane as an EOR injection fluid. With oil prices, netbacks and enough infrastructure in place (for now) to help stay ahead of major bottlenecks, operators have even expanded the core of the Bakken again. The rig count has been steadily increasing all summer and when the rigs go to work, they aren’t just going up in the main two counties of the play. According to the state’s lead oil regulator and all-world Bakken expert, “the entire Bakken is at play again.”

There is no doubt, from the upper reaches of the North Dakota Bakken in Divide County, to Atascosa County, Texas, activity has ramped up to a pace that is anything but slow and steady. It is shale season, after all, and, the season is just getting started.

Luke Geiver, EDITOR
North American Shale magazine