Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tour the Bakken

I had an educational opportunity yesterday.  I went on a bus tour of the Bakken.  The Bakken is a large (HUGE) oil field under the western third of North Dakota, into Montana and South Dakota and up into Canada.  It is thought that there is more oil in the Bakken oilfield than in the oilfield in Alaska and possibly nearly as much as in the Mideast! 

Our family lives on what is currently thought to be the east edge.  Just outside of the production area for now.  I have always said that we live on the right side of the line of the Bakken - the outside!  You see the roads and traffic are horrible.  The paved roads are beat up (broken pavement) due to heavy trucks as are the gravel roads.  The gravel roads are currently having the additional problem of water to make them soft.  There is a shortage of housing for all of the people who have come here for employment and a shortage of everything else needed for an influx of people.  Some of the cities in the Bakken region have doubled or tripled in size in just 2-3 years.  It really is quite a mess.  If everyone could be patient for a few years things should all work out - but until then...

We started our tour at Powers Lake. We drove to see a completed well sight.  Our tour guide, Mr. Enerson, told us about the development of that particular site and of the next one we saw.  He is mineral interest in these two locations.  The second site was just getting set up.  They were drilling the first well but this site will have four when completed.  Each oil well has a name & number.  Mr. & Mrs. Enerson got to name the four wells on this site.  Since they have four children one well is named for each child!

From these two sites we took a few gravel roads to Ross, ND.  At Ross we looked at a Frac Sand unloading area.  The sand comes in railroad cars and is loaded into semi trailers or large bags to go to each well site.  Frac Sand is used in the well prep process.  It is a special type of sand with very small particles.  This sand is mixed with water and, using high pressure, forced down into the hole that was bored and cracks the soil to release the oil. 

From Ross, we made a quick stop in Stanley for a little break.  We then drove to Tioga to a crew camp.

One way some of the housing shortage has been dealt with is by the creation of "man camps".  Well, that is what the locals call them.  During our tour we visited one camp, Capital Lodge Crew Camp.  Crew Camp is what the industry prefers we call them.  We had our noon meal there in the main hall. The main hall has many TVs and couches, pool tables, air hockey tables and other activities to help occupy the residents in their down time.  We also toured one of the housing buildings.   Here is a look at some of them.  Currently there are 120 of these buildings.
You see here that these buildings are basically double wide trailers.  Each of them has seven bedrooms, a common area to sit and a laundry room.  Each bedroom has two beds, a TV and a bathroom.  There are currently 120 of these structures at this site.  They plan to add more.  When this camp is full it will be the 14th largest city in North Dakota!  Most of the trailers are lived in by men. A few are for couples and a few are for women only. Residents need two keys - one for the outside door and one for their room. There are security cameras at each end of the building (in the hallway).  Companies rent rooms here for $116/night.  This fee includes three meals per day (one is packed for the worker to take to work).  We visited with the chef.  He told us they prepare three different meats for each meal and never use the same recipe in a 28 day stretch!  Gee, he should have shared that menu and the recipes! 
To get into the complex you need to have an ID card or special permission, this way is makes the location more secure and safe.  No booze is allowed. 
From Tioga, we traveled south toward New Town, ND.  On the way there we stopped at this drilling site.  This is currently a six hole pad.  However, they are drilling six more so it will be a 12 hole pad. 

The 4 green & yellow grasshopper looking things here are the Pumps.   The pump is the final step of the whole drilling process. The pump is what is left at the sight to bring the crude oil up into the tanks or pipeline.  Our Bakken wells are about 2 miles below the ground so it is quite a safe distance below our drinking water.  The tall blue & white object is a drilling rig.  This is a "walking rig".  That means it will drill one well and literally walks a few hundred feet, sets down and drills the next well.  This is a much faster process than in the past when the crews had to pack up the whole rig to move it.  The tan tanks in the right of the photo are storage tanks for the crude oil and for the salt water which is a natural by-product of our oil field.  These two products will be trucked away to other locations for processing.  Oil companies are hoping for more pipeline to move the oil.  Pipelines will also relieve our roads of the extra truck traffic as well.


This is another look at the same "walking" drilling rig.
We took a little break at Crow Flies High overlook just west of New Town.  The water here is Lake Sakakawea  (pronounced sa-ka`ka-we-a).  We were lucky to have a day with beautiful weather to enjoy some time outside here.
From this overlook we continued on to Watford City, ND to see the many changes to this city.  This is one of the towns that has doubled (maybe tripled) in size due to the discovery of the Bakken Oilfield.  We noticed a former small town that now has stop lights, numerous apartment buildings and houses popping up all over and new businesses springing up.    We continued on down the highway to Grassy Butte and Killdeer, ND.  There is so much construction all along Highway 85.  Mostly oil companies building offices, storage and mechanic buildings. 

From Killdeer we headed north on Highway 22.  This is a nice scenic route.  We saw the Little Missouri River breaks and the Killdeer Mountains (They are not really mountains but at sometime someone must have thought they were because that is what they are named.)  Here you see Andy had to take a look at the view.  I happened to also catch an oil pump and flame in the photo.  The flame is burning off natural gas from the oil.  It is sad to see the natural gas being wasted in this way but until we can get pipelines installed it is all that can be done.
We stopped at the Four Bears Casino west of New Town for supper and then headed back to Powers Lake.  It was a long day of riding in the bus but I learned quite a  bit. 


  1. I enjoyed you trip and the photos. My brother works in the Bakken, he has a Construction Company and is fixing many of those roads. He works long hours there. Eats sleeps and works. I would like to get out there maybe in the Fall..but I don't like traffic either:)

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad your brother is here to help.

  2. Thank you Annette, for sharing your Bakken Oil Field tour for everyone. As former residents of North Dakota, we have been following the Bakken "oil boom" for several years and hard to imagine the growth that has occured in just a couple of years - building, housing, supplies for all of the influx of workers, health facilities, schools and last, the traffic & road conditions. We are looking forward to a trip "back home" in the near future to observe all of this new activity. From Washington State

    1. Thank you for stopping by our blog. Enjoy your trip to ND and travel carefully.

  3. What a neat post! We have a friend with a welding company who was up there for awhile. The government really needs to get off their behinds and approve the pipeline! I can't imagine the boom-town atmosphere this oil field has brought to the area and what an impact it has had on the people who live there. Thanks for the tour! :)

    1. Thank you for stopping by. It really has created a lot of changes for our little corner of the world. However, change can be good if we open our minds!