Gusher! North Dakota Has Four Times More Oil Than Estimated

The world already knew North Dakota has enough oil left in the ground to traumatize climate activists for decades. But come on.

The latest estimate of oil reserves under our westerly neighbor truly defies the imagination.  Not to mention the U.S. government’s official calculations. The fracking company that’s led the way in developing the state’s reserves even rocked attendees with the news at an industry meeting covered by the Fargo Forum.

Continental Resources estimates that the Bakken Formation has reserves of 30 billion to 40 billion barrels of recoverable oil, or roughly four to five times more than the government’s latest estimate.

The estimate of the Bakken’s potential was disclosed during the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s Bakken 2.0 conference on Monday, Sept. 24, by Jack Stark, president of Continental Resources, a top oil producer in the state.

“It’s a big number but I think it’s a technically sound and a technically well-founded number,” Stark said. “There’s a lot of future left in the Bakken.”

Official government estimates put North Dakota’s oil reserves at just under 8 billion barrels. But the frackers on and under the ground say the state has the potential to rival some other nations.

North Dakota recently surpassed Venezuela in oil production, and the United States recently became the world’s largest oil producer, outranking Saudi Arabia and Russia.

North Dakota has 15,000 oil wells, and state officials estimate it has the potential for another 50,000 wells in the decades ahead.

Unlike many Minnesota political leaders, North Dakota’s elected officials strongly support the environmentally responsible development of the state’s natural resources.

“As North Dakotans, we just won the geology lottery,” said Gov. Doug Burgum, who spoke after Stark’s presentation. At last year’s conference, Burgum challenged the industry to reach production of 2 million barrels of oil per day, double the 1 million barrels per day level at the time.

Bakken production has increased steadily as technology advances, and the 2-million-barrel-per-day benchmark no longer seems out of reach, industry representatives said Monday.

With Bakken setting new records for oil output every year, the sky’s the limit. Not just in North Dakota, but in other states where fracking has reestablished the U.S. as the world’s premiere energy provider.

Under one scenario, assuming 70 drilling rigs are active, Continental Resources predicts North Dakota could reach 1.8 million barrels in the next five years, he told the conference audience. Also, he said, U.S. oil production could increase by 50 percent over the next five years.

The boom in North Dakota has become the norm with long-term jobs that benefit the state economy.

“We’re getting more done with less,” Jeff Hume, Continental’s vice chairman of strategic growth initiatives, told The Forum Editorial Board. As a result, oil companies now need to hire workers with technical training and commensurate pay levels.

“That long-term employment base is getting bigger and bigger,” Hume said, referring to the permanent workforce needed to operate and maintain wells, pipelines and gas processing stations. “It’s a boon for the native North Dakotans.”

One can only hope that Minnesota’s elected officials wake up to the enormous potential of environmentally responsible development of our world-class mineral resources.