Steve Nordeng with the North Dakota Geological Survey was recently singled out by Lynn Helms of the ND Industrial Commission for work he’s doing in The Bakken. Mr. Nordeng is our guest this week and talks about the present and future of oil exploration and production in The Bakken region of North Dakota…this is The Hegg Bakken Report!
Hegg Bakken Report: Today in the program we get in touch with a gentleman that works with the North Dakota geological survey, his name is Steve Nordeng. Steve thanks so much for joining us on the program today.
Steve Nordeng: You bet my pleasure.
Hegg Bakken Report: Where are you originally from Steve, where did you grow up?
Steve Nordeng: Originally I’m from Harden, Michigan. Not too far from the shores of Lake Superior up in the … Peninsula.
Hegg Bakken Report: And where did you go to school at Steve?
Steve Nordeng: I did my Bachelors and Masters Degree at Michigan Tech in Hutton and a PhD at Michigan State.
Hegg Bakken Report: Once you graduated, how did your career in geology begin?
Steve Nordeng: Well I started off; I finished up my Bachelors degree working as a mad logger in Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and North Dakota.
Hegg Bakken Report: Spent a good amount of time looking through a microscope.
Steve Nordeng: That I did.
Hegg Bakken Report: How long have you been with the North Dakota geological survey?
Steve Nordeng: I think it’s just about seven year’s right now.
Hegg Bakken Report: And your home base is it in Bismarck?
Steve Nordeng: Yes it is.
Hegg Bakken Report: Okay you have family and things there in Bismarck?
Steve Nordeng: Yap.
Hegg Bakken Report: Okay, what is the North Dakota geological survey for somebody that wouldn’t know what that is and what is your mission?
Steve Nordeng: We are a state agency that’s primary engaged in administrating a variety of regulatory programs outside of the oil and gas industry and we act as an advisor to other state agencies and do public service for the people not to court in general.
Hegg Bakken Report: Besides those sad state agencies are there other customers that rely on your work?
Steve Nordeng: A variety of industrial academic amenities as well as I suppose in the last couple of years I considered trying to give information as to what is going on with the Balking.
Hegg Bakken Report: Okay, recently the North Dakota petroleum council Lyn Helms who some folks say has the most impact on US Energy, independence than any other civil servant. He gave an update on oil production in the state of North Dakota and he made a point to single out the North Dakota geological survey and the work that you are doing and he mentioned you by name and map that you are working on. What can you tell us about that map Steve?
Steve Nordeng: The map that I think you are preferring to is basically the attempt by the survey to take the production statistics that we are getting from industry and reducing it down into a format that allows people to see what is referred to as sweet spots in the Bakken as those are places that have above average oil and gas production and rather than try to just use straight production statistics and try to place them to something like a graded curve from just zero to 100% for example and so the map is essentially giving a grade to various portions to the state as far as what we can expect oil production to be in the future.
Hegg Bakken Report: Can you give us a snapshot of where some of the best of those sweet spots might be?
Steve Nordeng: Well obviously the partial area is one of those sweet spots as well areas around Williston, North of Watford city, pretty much southern Williams, Northern McKenzie, Northern Dunn and a good portion of Montreal counties.
Hegg Bakken Report: Okay for a kind of personal reasons how far as South do those sweet spots go?
Steve Nordeng: Right now we have some a couple of very nice sweet spots that are extending down through down county and into, I think.
Hegg Bakken Report: Okay, besides oil companies and things and the obvious who are some of the other folks that are going to use this map?
Steve Nordeng: Well I would imagine it would probably be, see some interest in of course land owners in these counties as well maybe planners that are working on infrastructure issues, pipeline roads, power, things like that.
Hegg Bakken Report: Somebody that just has a general interest in what’s happening in Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana in the Bakken you know a person that’s not really acclimated with geology in the ways of the oil companies. What would a regular lay person get out to see in this map?
Steve Nordeng: I think probably get the realization that this is a very large accumulation of being worked in North Dakota, covers quite a significant portion of the western half of the state and I think from that perspective it gives people the hope that it really is.
Hegg Bakken Report: The North Dakota geological survey does a lot of different things and offers a lot of products what are some of the most popular things that you offer?
Steve Nordeng: We offer a whole series of surface maps which are useful in our pining for variety to construction and things like that. We also offer a series of maps detailing aspects of the sub surface, specs of oil and gas potential and other variety of things like that.
Hegg Bakken Report: Going back to Lyn Helmsey he also mentioned thermal gradients study that the North Dakota geological survey is conducting. The maps geological temperature profiles why is that important?
Steve Nordeng: For a number of reasons it turns out that one of the things is the impacts of fro example designing hydro frocking, down hole engineering a strength of materials, cementation methods as well as jus understanding the chemistry of oil generation in the Bakken for example. A temperature play a critical role and in many places we don’t have a good idea to what the real temperature is at depth and so what we are going to do with this study is try to develop the basic science that’s needed in order to get its really detailed map of what the heat flow is principally through the bases and from the heat flow we can calculate at different depth what the temperature should be.
Hegg Bakken Report: How do you retrieve that data, do you go with wells that have currently been drilled and wire line surveys. How do you do that, how do you get the temperatures?
Steve Nordeng: This is one of the difficult things because the process of drilling a well of course either heats up or cools off or somehow changed the temperature in the rock and since rock takes a long time to get insulated it takes a long time for temperatures to recalibrate. We usually don’t have good temperature data from the drilling process itself. So, what we are looking at doing is finding wells that have been temporarily abandoned of course this is what we are currently looking at. For some period of time say for a couple of years and these wells should have temperatures in the well bar that reflect quiet accurately the temperature of the rock and so by measuring, by running the simple temperature logs in these wells we can get a gradient, a temperature gradient that we can then calculate the heat flow.
Hegg Bakken Report: Our guest today in the program is Steve Nordeng with the North Dakota Geological survey and Steve a lot of oil operators are they pretty much cooperative, do they cooperate with your work quiet well?
Steve Nordeng: Yes, we have a very good relationship with the operators in the basin. You know we speak frequently with the geologists both in the field and in the office and we exchange ideas and by large a very good relationship.
Hegg Bakken Report: What are some of the projects that you can tell us about today that the North Dakota geological survey is working on that is going to have some impact on the Bakken.
Steve Nordeng: Well we have, for example we have the core library in Grand fox that of course is strongly rocked its collective from the field. We have been together about once or twice a year per workshop that allows people to come in and we would pull out a rock. We try to tell them what we see in the rock and they tell us what they see in the rock and between this interaction everybody I think is coming up to speed as to how to better develop this place as time goes on and we also have a variety of other projects involved in looking at not only the Bakken but as a pile formation, retro formation and spear fish.
Hegg Bakken Report: Okay we are going to get to those formations in more detail coming up in just a moment. You know I had worked on the drilling rigs in the late 70’s and 80’s and the lead tong was always their job to catch samples, rock catchers if you will and Lyn Helms mentioned that the North Dakota geological survey you are revising your drill cutting sample requirements. Can you tell me more about that?
Steve Nordeng: I think in part it’s just recognition with two technologies that are employed in the oil patch. Our drilling rates have increased a great deal from lets the late 70’s so in order to get adequate samples we also have recognize at the time, you know we are drilling so fast it is frequently impossible to catch samples let’s say at 10 feet. So, we are looking at the fraction that was to a longer intervals just simply because how quickly things are drilling. At the same time you understand that the companies are frequently don’t want to catch samples too quickly so if there is a trade off going back and forth is for trying to figure out what the best our sample interval is.
Hegg Bakken Report: Has the industry reacted to these revisions as of yet?
Steve Nordeng: Not that I am aware of that’s part of the regulatory component that’s handled by the department of human resources.
Hegg Bakken Report: Back to those formations based on the data that you have seen. How will the tiller the three folks and others compared to the potential that the Bakken has?
Steve Nordeng: Well the Bakken is probably unique in that it is probably contains probably one of the richest source beds in the world. However with that said we also have new technologies that will probably be capable of opening up additional resources within the walls and basin. I don’t know if they are going to be as big as the Bakken. I will be surprised if they were but I don’t know because a lot of this is technology driven.
Hegg Bakken Report: What does the science say about how many wells will be needed in Western North Dakota to fully develop the play and how long will that take?
Steve Nordeng: I understand is, we are looking at probably on the order of 30 to 45,000 wells total.
Hegg Bakken Report: How many do we have now?
Steve Nordeng: I think we are at about 5,000 within that range this is long term.
Hegg Bakken Report: Definitely long term and what do you read Steve to stay on top of energy developments not only in North Dakota but worldwide?
Steve Nordeng: Every newspaper I can get a hold of, the America Association Petroleum geologist. Publications world oil a variety of things like that.
Hegg Bakken Report: Is there one book that you have read that has influenced your career in any way?
Steve Nordeng: There is but it has nothing to do with geology it’s just about geometry of nature.
Hegg Bakken Report: Well Steve this has been very interesting, you are very well vast in your job and your career and things and we appreciate the time that you have taken from obviously a busy workload to join us on the program today. Our guest has been Steve Nordeng with the North Dakota geological survey. Steve, thank you very much.