Initial test drilling to a new level suggests that the amount of recoverable oil in western North Dakota might be greater than previously estimated.
Former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer talked about test drilling that is taking place in McKenzie County, N.D., During a recent visit to Sioux Falls.
Schafer serves on the board of Continental Resources, the company conducting the tests. Continental is the most active oil company working in North Dakota.
Continental announced the results of an initial test drilling in late 2012 and will conduct additional tests in the area.
The initial step involved drilling into the third level of the Three Forks Formation, a tiered layer of earth below the Bakken Shale. Continental drilled more than 21,000 feet and struck a 1,000-barrel-a-day well. The test drilling went down approximately 11,000 feet, then snaked sideways through the third level of the Three Forks for about 10,000 feet to tap into oil.
The test give Continental producing wells in three layers of the Three Forks. The company plans to test-drill into the fourth level of the Three Forks during 2013. A network of 14 test wells in the second, third and fourth tiers of Three Forks is planned.
Continental successfully drilled into the first tier of Three Forks several years ago. The potential significance of testing deeper layers is that the results could show there is a lot more recoverable oil in the Bakken region that previously estimated, Schafer said.
Regardless, oil production in North Dakota is considered a long-term play. “We’ve got a long way to go in the Bakken just to recover the known oil,” Schafer says.
Because of changes in technology and other variables, Schafer stops short of offering specific time estimates on how long it might take companies to remove recoverable oil resources from western North Dakota. However, other experts have estimated that it will take decades.