Growth Set to Continue
In April 2014, the Willistion Basin reached the milestone of producing 1 MM barrels of oil daily. Only Texas, one Canadian province, and 19 countries world wide are producing 1 MM barrels per day, putting North Dakota among the top oil producers in the entire world. Howver, the Williston Basin is in its infancy. As of October 2013, approximately 6,500 wells have been completed out of a potential 70,000 wells in total1 for full development.
At the current pace it will take over 20 years to complete all of the “in-fill” development drilling to reach full potential.
With multiple pay zones, this means that the effective acreage position is larger than the surface footprint. As an example, if a leasehold is 10 net mineral acres but the infill potential is up to 16 wells, the gross acreage would be 160 mineral acres (16 wells x 10 net mineral acres).
The pace of oil production coming online is accelerating due to improved completion techniques including coil tubing fracs, higher intensity fracs, and just better understanding of the existing geology from previous well completions.
As technology improves, the cost is also coming down. In 2012, a peak in well cost was realized and since that time, well costs with improved production have come down. This improves the time to break-even on the initial investment and improves the return on investment.
The most recent United States Geological Survey assessment, released April 2013 (http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/ 2013/3013 /fs2013-3013.pdf), estimates the amount of technically recoverable oil in the Bakken and Three Forks formations to be 7.4 billion BOE with 6.7 trillion cubic feet of associated/dissolved natural gas and 0.53 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. That estimate is more than double the previous 2008 estimate of 3.0-4.3 billion BOE.
Continental Resources, the Bakken’s largest well operator and acreage holder, estimated in 2010 that the amount of recoverable oil equivalent in the Bakken and Three Forks formations was 24 billion barrels; 20 billion barrels of oil and 4 billion barrels of equivalent in natural gas. The Continental Resources December 2013 Investor Presentation contained an estimate of up to 45 billion BOE by including the three additional benches or layers of the Three Forks formation.