No doubt about it: Bakken is back

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Today we're busier in the Bakken than most people think.

In May, the North Dakota oil and gas industry set a new production record, hitting 1.244 million barrels of oil per day (bopd). In 18 months, production has grown by more than 300,000 bopd, from 942,156 bopd in December 2016. It's hard to believe that only ten years ago, in May 2008, the state's production totaled only 156,420 bopd.

To grow any industry eightfold in 10 years is truly remarkable and the North Dakota economy has been transformed. The industry employs 20 percent of North Dakota's workforce, and at incredible wages, paying more than 30 percent of total wages. North Dakota mineral owners reap more than $1 billion per year in royalty.

The taxes paid by the industry are astonishing, benefiting each and every North Dakotan. The average new well pays more than $1 million of taxes in its first year and we completed nearly 900 new wells in the last 12 months.

It hasn't been without challenge. Western North Dakota worked hard to build our communities during the boom and to survive the downturn. For many, balance sheets will take longer to repair than income statements. A lot of iron remains under-utilized in shop yards. Several investments in oil and gas, real estate and other projects have and continue to face challenges.

While such situations cause hardship, the Bakken is fundamentally sound. The downturn forced rapid technology advancement in the industry.

Altogether, better operations, knowledge, and technology have doubled production per well in only a few years and decreased the cost of each well.

Our people changed too. The young guys who came out during the boom are five years older now, meaning that growing families are replacing crews in apartments. Our community events are packed with strollers, and even newly-built schools are full.

The Bakken became a place for young adults to create families, friends and career opportunities (very often with six-figure paychecks). Now our next challenge in western North Dakota is growing community amenities to make this a place they love even more.

Record production, record employment, and record births. There's no question that the Bakken is back.

Tom Rolfstad, retired director