What’s happening in North Dakota?


As long as prices stay above $60 a barrel or so, oil will be a mainstay of the North Dakota economy for a generation or more. After drilling companies finish securing leased acreage, it will take 20 years to develop the 35,000 to 40,000 production wells needed to fully exploit the “thermally mature” part of the Bakken shale, an area about the size of West Virginia. Production from a typical Bakken well declines rapidly but on average produces modest amounts of oil for 45 years and earns a profit of $20 million. But as the volume of oil in the Bakken shale is still a moving target, and recovery techniques are increasingly sophisticated, some estimates put the life of the Bakken play, and the attendant upheaval it is causing in North Dakota, at upward of a hundred years…

Leigh Price, a United States Geological Survey geochemist, was initially greeted with skepticism when, about 13 years ago, he came to the conclusion that the Bakken might hold as much as 503 billion barrels of oil. Now people don’t think that number is as crazy as it seemed. “Right now our best guess is there are 169 billion barrels of oil in the Bakken, and that’s undoubtedly wrong,” says Ed Murphy, state geologist at the North Dakota Geological Survey. “There’s no way to be right. It’s like guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar.” The current recovery rates for Bakken reserves typically range from 1 to 6 percent, but recovery rates are a function of both technology and market prices. “With the best technology, we can recover 4 to 8 out of every 100 barrels of oil in the Bakken,” says Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. “Every 1 percent increase in the rate of recovery means another billion barrels.”…

North Dakota’s oil boom now accounts for 11 percent of U.S. oil production, and it is the main reason the state government currently has a $3.8 billion surplus…North Dakotans are as proud of their Capitol as they are of their boom-based unemployment rate (3.2 percent, lowest in the nation)

Meanwhile, what’s happening in the home state of the NYT? “Southern Tier residents will gather to call on Governor Cuomo to not move ahead with fracking. The Governor is deciding whether to allow fracking or not by February 13th, with a sham health review, rather than a comprehensive health assessment, with our health and that of our family’s at stake. Our message is clear: Governor Cuomo, Not One Well!” Okay then. To each his own.

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