Bakken Oil Boom now a generational oil play

WILLISTON - Any thoughts that the pace in the Bakken oil patch has slowed down over the past few years, can be eliminated.

"We're breaking records everyday," noted Tom Rolfstad, Executive Director of Williston Economic Development.

"They're growing houses, like they grow wheat on the plains," said Rick Leuthold, Chairman of Sanderson Stewart, a regional development company that has been involved in helping Williston deal with the impacts of a seemingly endless oil boom.

With North Dakota on the threshold of surpassing the one million barrel-a-day threshold in oil production, sights are already focused on two million barrels a day.

Currently in North Dakota, there are more than 10-thousand producing oil wells "Rockin the Bakken". Experts says before it's all said and done, there will likely be more than 50-thousand producing wells.

"If you do the simple math, 50 thousand wells, 21-hundred a year, that's 25 years of drilling," Rolfstad explained.

The combination of horizontal drilling and fracturing at multiple levels and directions into the Bakken shale, is rewriting the book on oil booms, so much so that boom is no longer the accurate term.

"They're getting more production from the same amount of equipment," explained Leuthold. "You'll see that continue to change. Again the technology changes, but the resource is there, it's a proven resource," Leuthold said.

"For a long time were talking boom and bust, and how long this play will last. For the most part people are beyone that...saying this is a long term plan, a generational play," said Leuthold.

Williston City officials have noted a marked difference in what they were witnessing today, from just two years ago.

"The city is changing. We're getting more diverse, we're getting younger, more people moving here and staying," said 16-year City Commission veteran Brad Bekkedahl.

"Those people are bringing an optimism, because they came from a place that probably didn't have a good economy," Bekkedahl explained. 

And Williston has responded. In just the past year, 13 hotels have been added, along with more than a dozen new restaurants.

Three thousand new apartments have also been added to the mix in just the past year.

"Development at this pace is tough on everyone," said Leuthold. For the greatest portion of people who live here, they recognize that development of natural resources is a positive thing for thier community, it's bringing dollars into the community," said Leuthold.

A 1 percent local option sales tax is also helping ease the growing pains.

Last month, the new $76 million dollar Williston Area Recreation Center opened its doors to the public, the facility paid for almost entirely from oil industry taxes .

""It's a win-win for the community, and it makes it easier for the oil companies to attract quality families, quality workers as well - because there are amenities here that people want, " Rolfstad said.

Tomorrow night in Part 2 of our special report on the Bakken Buzz, a closer look into how the state of North Dakota tries to keep track of the surging oil activity.