The Williston Basin: North Dakota's Gold Mine

Statoil Acquires Brigham for Stake in the Basin

By Brianna Panzica
Monday, October 17th, 2011

North Dakota’s Williston Basin is causing quite a stir lately.

Containing parts of the Bakken and Three Forks shale formations, this basin offers high reserves of oil.  And new technology enabling drilling has led to an oil boom.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, North Dakota will most likely be the number 3 oil-producing state within the next year, and officials predict it could even hit number 2 within the decade.

The state, the article reports, was able to produce 444,000 barrels of oil per day this August, up significantly from 350,000 just a year ago.

It is likely that by 2015, North Dakota could produce a total of 700,000 barrels a day.

California, currently at number 3, produces 539,000 barrels a day, and compared with North Dakota’s rapidly increasing rate, the state is not likely to stay in 3rd place.

Even Alaska, in 2nd place with 550,000 barrels a day, is actually declining in production, said Steve Grape of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Information Administration.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune told the story of Barb Russell, a former school bus driver who gave up her profession to work with the oil mines where “everybody who wants a job has one.”

According to the article, Russell, now driving buses to and from the oil rigs, was able to increase her income three-fold.

North Dakota’s unemployment rate is 3% because of the slew of jobs the oil boom has provided.

And this is even gaining international attention.

Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil ASA (NYSE: STO) has agreed to purchase Brigham Exploration Co (NASDAQ: BEXP), a Texan company that has a large stake in the Williston Basin in both North Dakota and Montana.

The Norwegian giant offered Brigham $4.4 billion, or $36.50 per share, for the company and its assets.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, this deal will include Brigham’s 375,000 acres in the Williston Basin as well as 40,000 acres elsewhere.

Statoil is looking to expand its stake in unconventional resources in the United States, and as Chief Executive Helge Lund said, this will be the perfect opportunity to do so.

Statoil already has a stake in Chesapeake (NYSEL CHK), giving it access to the Marcellus shale, and it is working with Talisman (NYSE: TLM) in the Eagle Ford shale.

Helge Lund is excited about what this brings to the company, as he told Reuters:

“Marcellus is primarily dry gas, Eagle Ford is a combination of dry gas and liquids and this [Brigham’s assets] is oil.  We now have a good, deep position in the U.S. in unconventionals.”

Reuters further reports that Brigham’s production in the Williston Basin is 21,000 barrels per day.  It has the potential, however, to increase to a daily production between 60,000 and 100,000 barrels.

Brigham was up 19.81% at noon trading to $36.38 on Monday.

That’s all for now,

Brianna


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