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Bakken 201

A Brief History of the Bakken: Part 2

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted February 28, 2013

By the 1990s, most oil companies had given up on trying to coax the oil trapped in tight shale to the surface from the Bakken.

But a stubborn, independent wildcat geologist wouldn't give up...

His name is Dick Findley. And he's known as the father of the Bakken.

Dick Findley is credited with cracking the code for the Bakken in 1996, ultimately leading to the development of the giant Elm Coulee Field (known as "Sleeping Giant" at the time) in the Bakken in Eastern Montana.

Findley's discovery was so epic, he was awarded Explorer of the Year in 2006, some 10 years after his discovery.

You see, a few miles outside Sidney, Montana, Findley uncovered a layer of dolomite, a porous mineral running between two shale layers where oil and gas had previously been found.

His theory was simple: If the dolomite was drilled and fractured in the right direction, it would draw in oil from the shale above and below.

Findley hoped this "two-for-one" approach would make the vast Bakken field economical to produce where other approaches had failed.

But he needed a company with deep pockets and expertise in horizontal fracturing to accomplish this...

Findley got his wish when oil giant Halliburton signed on to test his theory.

In 1998, Halliburton invested in a limited number of drilling programs in the Bakken. Drilling began in early 2000. The first well drilled by Halliburton — christened Burning Tree State — called for a 10,000-foot vertical well with a 3,000-foot horizontal drill well.

The horizontal well only got to 1,200 feet, due to drilling problems.

Nevertheless, they continued with the fracturing...

Oil production instantly exceeded their wildest dreams.

As word spread of Halliburton's success, other companies came rushing into the Bakken.

While all of this was going on, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) launched a study to determine how large the oil reserve was, and how it would impact the U.S. oil industry — which, at that time, was experiencing an all-time low.

What they found shocked the USGS and made national headlines for years to come...

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) made the biggest estimate on what U.S. oil companies could expect to harvest from the Bakken Basin: a whopping 503 billion barrels of oil.


Today, the Bakken is considered one of the largest (possibly the largest) continuous hydrocarbon accumulations in the world.

It's an over-pressurized system, which is why wells drilled have such high initial production rates.

The high pressure in the Bakken suggests the oil is contained within the source rock itself. This means the oil remains in place and is tightly contained throughout the geologic structure.

Typically, highly-pressurized source rocks squeeze oil out into surrounding reservoirs, which also produce surface seeps.

But not the Bakken...

The formation's high pressure — coupled with advances in technology — make each well drilled in the Bakken capable of producing 600,000 and 700,000 barrels of oil over the course of its life.

Bakken production took off in 2008 and was producing around 150,000 barrels per day.

As you read this, North Dakota is pumping 768,000 barrels per day and has over 3,000 wells working.

Do the math: Oil production has increased 412% in just four years.

If that's not a boom, I don't know what is.

Viva la Bakken,

Brian Hicks Signature

Brian Hicks

Brian is a founding member and President of Angel Publishing and investment director for the income and dividend newsletter The Wealth Advisory. He writes about general investment strategies for Wealth Daily and Energy and Capital. Known as the "original bull on America," Brian is also the author of Profit from the Peak: The End of Oil and the Greatest Investment Event of the Century, published in 2008. In addition to writing about the economy, investments and politics, Brian is also a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox, and countless radio shows. For more on Brian, take a look at his editor's page.

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