An official government survey of the Bakken region’s oil treasure trove is due out next month. The report is expected to play it very conservatively, because it will confine estimates to the amount of oil that likely can be produced profitably based on last year’s oil prices. It will also not take into account any further technological advances that might make it even easier to extract more oil.
“The Bakken is much like the enormous natural gas field that sat for many years under and around Dallas until people figured out the geology and how to drill it out economically,” says Lucian Pugliaresi, president of the Energy Policy Research Foundation.
Figure on at least five years before the oil starts flowing in large volumes. A lot of work will need to be done first. In addition to installing drilling gear, firms must build supporting infrastructure, including roads, pipelines as well as new water, sewage and sanitation systems to meet the needs of workers and other area residents.
Note that the Bakken Play region is not an environmentally sensitive area similar to Alaskan tundra that has stymied much oil field development because of concerns about damage to the fragile environment. Still, some environmental protests are sure to emerge and may gum up development for a while, but they’re unlikely to stop oil production from the Bakken fields.
Oil companies are using advanced horizontal drill techniques to tap crude oil and gas underneath Lake Sakakawea.