Soaring Oil Production Spurs Infrastructure Growth Across Booming Bakken Play
By Danny Boyd Special Correspondent
Five years into the Williston Basin’s historic oil boom, operators and municipalities find themselves wrestling with infrastructure challenges many regions would love to face: crude oil transportation constraints brought on by surging production, and maxed-out municipal services in a rural region with a rapidly expanding population that is bursting at the seams.
Across North Dakota, demand is off the charts for everything from drilling rigs and pumping units to housing and office space, driven by a blistering pace of activity in the Bakken Shale play. The number of producing Bakken/Three Forks wells in North Dakota has expanded by more than 700 percent (from 470 to 3,377) over the past four years, and daily oil production in the state skyrocketed from 36,000 barrels in January 2008 to 481,000 barrels in January 2012–a nearly 14-fold increase!
With that kind of meteoric growth, one of the most obvious and pressing needs is transportation capacity to ship the produced oil to market. To meet the need, major investments are being made in pipeline systems that could double North Dakota’s daily export capacity over the next five years, as well as in a rapidly expanding rail transport system that is expected to have a capacity of 750,000 barrels a day this year, according to Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.
“Considering the incredible production increase we have seen in the Bakken, we are looking at where production is going to be two years, five years or 10 years into the future,” he remarks. “That is the challenge as we try to get new projects put together so we are not undersizing or oversizing projects. We want to have the right size project in place at the right time.”