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Future projections for oil, gas-producing counties
Post Date: Nov 06 2012
By ELOISE OGDEN - Regional Editor ( , Minot Daily News

What's ahead for the oil and gas producing counties in North Dakota?

Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck, presented a county-by-county report of those counties that are in the front line of the development and dealing with the impacts. He made the presentation at the recent annual meeting of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties.

Here's some information from his report:

Billings County

Referring to a graph of Billings County, he said, "You can see we're going to see a pretty good surge in rigs next year in Billings County.

As of Oct. 18, he said, just under 300 wells were producing in the county

He said in five years, his projections for Billings County show 1,250 producing wells and 2 million barrels of oil a month.

Bottineau County

He said the Spearfish Formation in Bottineau County is experiencing crowding out right now. "We'll need a couple more years to get in there with drilling rigs and start drilling out those 2,400 wells 24 wells per square mile, "Helms said. "In a couple years we think that well costs will be where they need to be and oil costs stay strong so we will see that."

"In five years we're looking at 850 producing wells and about half a million barrels a month out of Bottineau County," he said.

Bowman County

Bowman County had high crude oil production for a time, but that has declined.

But Helms said right now there's a Co2 pipeline working its way from Wyoming to Bell Creek, an oil field in southeastern Montana. "The pipeline and the plan are already funded and budgeted to come to Baker, Mont., then the Co2 is just right across the border," Helms said. He said long term, the real key for Bowman County is the Co2 pipeline.

Burke County

"Burke County is in a few years looking at a pretty good surge in rigs," Helms said, adding, "Long term, a lot of drilling could be done in Burke county with a lot of additional jobs coming into Burke County."

Five years from now, he said the projections for Burke are a well count of 1,250 and production at three-quarters of a million.

Divide County

Divide County is very much the same story as Burke County, he said.

Dunn County

"We've got 7,700 active-producing wells in the state of North Dakota right now, making 700,000 barrels a day. Long term, he said, Dunn County lands at 7,200 producing wells."

He also noted that 10 percent of people who are working oil and gas jobs and secondary-driven jobs in Dunn County live in the county. "The rest of them get in a white pickup truck or big semi and drive in there every day," he said.

If that population was increased from 10 percent to 20 percent living in Dunn County, mainly in Killdeer, Dunn Center and Halliday, he said such a change will take a lot of time, planning and money.

Golden Valley

Golden Valley is on the verge of quite a large increase in rig count, Helms said.

McHenry County

"We don't see a lot of drilling activity in McHenry County," Helms said. "It doesn't appear that the Bakken gets over there but there's oil in the lower Lodgepole in McHenry County."

McKenzie County

"Wow. McKenzie County," Helms said. He said it will be quite a day when that county hits 12.5 million barrels of oil a month and 4,800 wells.

He said oil and gas officials think McKenzie County has seen its peak in rig count at 72, but in the future it still is not very low with 60 rigs.

McLean County

McLean County's projections are "nice and steady," he said. "You can see the wells march on up to 300,000 barrels a month coming out of there."

Mercer County

The Lower Lodgepole Formation in Mercer County is a real struggle, Helms said. He said no one is working on the technology for it right now so he didn't build it into his projections.

Mountrail County

"It just keeps on going and going and going," Helms. He said in five years Mountrail County will have around 2,400 wells and producing about 7 million barrels a month.

Renville County

He said the Mission Canyon play is "two to three years out until that really gets its legs under it in order to catch up with well costs."

He said it is a play that has just started to be experimented with in Renville, Burke and western Bottineau.

Slope County

Slope County is a similar story to Bowman County and having had some activity there, Helms said.

Stark County

He said Stark County's certainly headed in the right direction. Five years from now, it is projected to have 700 wells producing in the county.

The Tyler Formation in that area won't kick in with activity for a few years, he said. "It's just suffering from the crowding out effect something fierce."

Ward County

Slightly more than 60 producing wells are shown in Ward County in five years.

Williams County

"Williams County's pretty much steady at 40 drilling rigs," Helms said. "In five years we've got Williams County at 2,900 wells and 7 million barrels per month."

Helms, who also spoke at a recent meeting in Minot of Vision West ND, a grant funded project, said a recently released housing study projects that by 2025 North Dakota will need housing for 840,000 people.

He said that would be a long-term stable population of at least 840,000 people and a much younger population.

"That's a lot more people than we've ever had," he said. He said the peak population was last year but the previous peak was in 1930 at 670,000. "We went down for 70 straight years after that. We're now at 700,000-plus and working our way to a million," he said.

He said 40-some studies have been undertaken in the state regarding the oil activity and its impacts.

Helms told participants at the N.D. Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties' meeting there are risk factors that could cause slowdowns in the oil activity.

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