Double the oil production?
By Nick Smith
Published/Last Modified on Saturday, January 8, 2011 6:22 PM CST
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The Associated Press quoted North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms last week saying production could double to nearly 700,000 barrels of oil per day "in the next four to seven years."
Industry officials are also projecting that the total recoverable oil in the Bakken and Three Forks formations may be more than twice the current estimates of 4 billion barrels.
If such projections were to play out, North Dakota could become the second highest oil producing state in the country, trailing only Texas.
LOCAL REACTION Currently, North Dakota is ranked fourth behind Texas, Alaska and California.
"It makes us a bit nervous, to be honest. We're a bit nervous about how we'd be able to handle such an increase. We're really being challenged already," said Williston Mayor Ward Koeser.
Production was at more than 342,000 barrels per day in October.
Koeser said in recent months he was confident that the city may be able to catch up on housing in the coming year.
He said the new projections, if accurate, would make efforts to provide housing and infrastructure even more difficult.
"It makes it very difficult to plan. With the (AP) story, that changes the whole ballgame," said Koeser.
Williston Economic Development Director Tom Rolfstad said the newer industry projections are a lofty goal.
He agreed that such numbers are exciting yet enough to make anyone nervous and concerned.
"Obviously 700,000 is a huge number. If we're going to double our activity, it's hard to fathom," said Rolfstad.
Rolfstad added that the increase in activity shows the need for state assistance. He said it may also attract more developers to the area.
Rolfstad noted that Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm told UND students in December there may be as many as 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken and Three Forks.
He also pointed out that outgoing U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, called on the United States Geological Survey to start an updated study on the Bakken.
No matter what the long-term expectations, Rolfstad said this year is going to be memorable.
"Next year should be the experience of a lifetime for Williston. We're going to see things happen that we've never seen before."