Bakken formation reaches 'maturity' according to 2021 North Dakota Energy report

Report says much of the new investments are coming in value-added industries focused on by-product capture from oil and gas production.

In this April 7, 2010, photo, one of the many nodding oil pumps scattered throughout the region works near Stanley, one of the hottest areas of North Dakota's Oil Patch.
Dickinson Press file photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

DICKINSON, N.D. — According to the newly released 2021 North Dakota Energy report by EnergyND, Great Plains Energy Corridor and Bismarck State College's North Dakota Polytechnic Institution, industry experts are now saying that the Bakken formation has reached maturity.

Formation maturity is defined in the report as having a majority of operators dedicated to producing their acreage on a consistent and steady pace — but with the added caveat that foreseeable radical growth in production is "less than likely."

The report comes as North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources data shows that the price of crude oil has reached $106.91 a barrel as of May 23. The increase in crude oil barrel prices is a relief to many operators in the formation as the price dropped to untenable lows at $65.46 per barrel in December 2021.

According to the newly-released 2021 North Dakota Energy report, private and public sectors have slowly rebounded from the 2020 pandemic and spring 2020 price collapse, but much of the new investments are coming in value-added industries focused on by-product capture from oil and gas production.

North Dakota, previously the second-largest oil producer in the nation, fell to third in oil production behind Texas and New Mexico for the first time since 2012. The oil collapse in mid-2021 witnessed the average rig counts climb slightly to 22 rigs, which was already down in large part due to the slow recovery from the 2020 pandemic and oil price collapse.


The report was positive in many aspects, noting that newer, more advanced rigs operating in the Bakken are able to drill about twice as many wells in a year than those operating in 2012. According to the report, 98% of statewide drilling occurs in the Bakken and Three Forks formations.

A typical Bakken oil well is expected to produce more than 30 years worth of oil, however, favorable economic conditions, enhanced oil recovery efforts and other factors can, and often do, extend the life of a well.

The report further highlighted environmental and reclamation measures taken after a well has stopped producing economically. According to the report, North Dakota state law requires that operators plug a well or return it to production within six months.

Plugging a well involves cementing the production and surface casing at several different depths to ensure no hydrocarbons or saltwater passes to the surface, in addition to cutting off the surface casing about four feet below the ground. Further, any topsoil and subsoil removed during the initial well construction are required to be returned to the site and the land returned to its pre-drilling contours as part of the reclaimed process.

There are two oil refineries in North Dakota, one in Mandan and the one in Dickinson.

Marathon Oil Corporation processes Williston Basin crude oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heavy fuel oils and liquefied petroleum gas. Marathon purchased its Dickinson Refinery in 2018 from Andeavor. The refinery was the first greenfield diesel refinery to be built in the United States since the late 1970s, and has been online since May 2015.

What to read next
Experts warn that simply claiming the benefits may create paper trails for law enforcement officials in states criminalizing abortion. That will complicate life for the dozens of corporations promising to protect, or even expand, the abortion benefits for employees and their dependents.
The awards recognize products designed for the commercial landscape and irrigation markets and are judged by the EPG Brand Acceleration staff. Judges take into account innovation, marketability and application within the market as criteria for the awards.
The gener8tor 1889 seed fund’s goal is to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem in North Dakota through investing in local startups and attracting new startups to the state.
Wharam is starting "Do Life Health Personalized Precision Medicine" out of her home in Thompson, North Dakota, to bring pharmacogenomics to the region. Pharmacogenomics is essentially the study of DNA to determine how an individual will respond to their medications. The service is covered by Medicare and Medicaid.