Speaker: Bakken Is An Industry, Not A Boom
BY SAMAR FAY COURIER EDITOR
Published: Thursday, October 18th, 2012
How big is the Bakken oil boom and how long will it last? People at the Two Rivers Economic Growth annual meeting last night heard that “Kuwait on the prairie” (a phrase used in The New Yorker magazine) is a lot bigger than they had imagined, and it is no quick bubble.
“Rockin’ the Bakken” is the expression used by Tom Rolfstad, the economic developer for Williston, N.D. He painted a picture of the huge impact that oil and natural gas production have just started to make, and its national benefits for energy and industries like steel, timber, trucking and railroads. When the initial turmoil of staking out leases and drilling wells is over, the maintenance phase will still support 50,000 stable jobs, he said.
The estimated amount of oil available continues to increase as technology advances, and we are still only recovering 5 percent of the oil in the rock, Rolfstad said. Fracking and horizontal drilling are just the latest methods of extracting more oil.
“This is an industry, not a boom. It will last a long time,” he said. “This is the 60th year of oil production in Williston and we’ll be around 60 years from now. Probably 200 years.”
BNSF is building 14 major rail yards to handle unit trains of oil. Two $180 million natural gas plants are planned - each serves 250 wells and there may eventually be 50,000 wells. Power demands have jumped in three years from 30 megawatts to 150 megawatts and that’s hardly the beginning. They expect to use the abundant gas to fuel power plants. Eventually there might be oil refineries, although lack of distribution capability is a bottleneck.
There are growing pains as the Bakken endures what Rolfstad called Phase One of the development of the oil play. Trucks are making an average of 2,024 trips to each new well with fracking sand, water, rig pieces, drilling mud and waste water. Housing is nonexistent. Because companies want what they need immediately as they stake out positions, cost is no object, so wages and prices spiral out of sight. The result is that Wal-Mart can’t fill jobs with a starting wage of $17 an hour.
Rolfstad said he was not sure what eastern Montana should do to get a bigger part of this.
“This is a lot bigger than us, so if you can help us, take some of it,” he said.
After the presentation, the business meeting was held. Two new members were elected to the board of directors, Jarrell Schock and Joy Guttenberg. The remaining five members were re-elected: Betty Stone, Chris Helland, Bruce Peterson, Dan Carney and Lisa Olk.
Chris Helland turned over the job of president of Two Rivers after two terms. The new slate was elected by acclamation: President Betty Stone, Vice President Lacey Brelje, Treasurer Sam Brelje, Secretary DeAnn Ketchum and Past President Chris Helland.
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