Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bakken Formation

Even though it has been a couple of days since we left North Dakota, I want to publish a brief post about all the oil field activity up here. I am reposting this photo because it is the only one I have that shows a complete well. This is the one I took from inside the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

We have seen many of these well sites in various stages of construction all through western North Dakota, and we didn't even drive on up to Williston which is the center of the activity.

The following article is copied from the National Parks of North Dakota Visitor Guide and it provides an interesting description of the level and the impact of this activity.

"What's Going on Around Here?!"

"Surprised by the amount of truck traffic in the area? Unable to get a hotel reservation? Can't find the sleepy cowboy towns you remember? The reason for the incredible changes this area is experiencing lies two miles below the surface of western North Dakota - a formation called the Bakken. The Bakken formation is a rock layer rich with oil reserves. Until recently, the oil was not extractable. A new and controversial technique - hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" - has allowed oil companies to more than quadruple their daily oil production in the last five years. The huge influx of activity has brought tens of thousands of new jobs to the area. In a national economy where jobs are scarce, North Dakota has become the "land of opportunity" for many.

All three North Dakota National Parks are experiencing serious issues due to the oil boom. New wells are going in every month; many can be seen from inside park boundaries. Each new well means another drill rig, well pad, pumpjack, debris pit, flare pit, storage tanks, and access roads on the landscape. Each new well requires 2,000 "trucking events" to complete its setup and to begin pumping oil. Noise and dust from heavy truck traffic and pumping equipment is constant. Numerous flares can be seen in the formerly dark night sky as excess natural gas is burned off. Socioeconomic impacts are altering local communities. A multifaceted topic to be sure, the oil boom begs a difficult question: how can we develop our resources while still protecting our parks and communities?"

Just traveling through we have seen panhandlers at intersections in small towns, days long waiting lists for a haircut, increased costs, help wanted signs at many types of businesses, and a group of five fifth-wheels and trailers apparently traveling together because they displayed signs saying "North Dakota or Bust"...I wish them well but, from all I've read, the living conditions are harsh, to put it mildly.

Having minimal knowledge of the recent oil boom in these parts, I've been fascinated with this peek at the situation. Gotta go...we just parked at the Little Big Horn Battlefield!

Lovin' Life ~~ Always Learning

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