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Mercer County not ‘mature enough’ for Bakken
LAUREN DONOVAN BismarckTribune.com | Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012
BEULAH — Hope for striking oil in Mercer County depends on how mature it is.
The Coal Country county is on the far fringe of the Bakken formations that are thermally mature — properly cooked, in other words — and readily produce oil.
And “fringe” in this case may mean no more than 20 miles or so bordering Dunn County, where one Bakken well was plugged and abandoned two years ago. Another one drilled roughly at the same time was first drilled into the Bakken with no results and then pulled back up to the Lodgepole formation. Today, that well produces 10 barrels of oil a day and 50 barrels of water in the same time.
From that perspective, the analysis for Mercer County presented Monday night by State Geologist Ed Murphy was not dazzling.
Murphy spoke to about 40 people, many of them rural folks and members of the Mercer County Farm Bureau, which sponsored the presentation.
There might be hope for oil development, even though the county is not in the Bakken hot spot, he said. Outside the thermally mature area of the Bakken, which includes most of Mercer County and beyond to the Missouri River, is an area called an “expulsion area,” he said.
Murphy said the theory is that Bakken oil is pushed out beyond its mature boundary and that outlier area has shown fairly good production in Saskatchewan on the northern reach of the Bakken.
It’s possible that geologists’ calculations are wrong and the expulsion “is really part of the Bakken,” Murphy said.
He said the Tyler formation doesn’t look promising for the county either, like it does for counties in a region south of Dickinson, “unless the oil pushed in from somewhere else.”
He said the county’s best oil bet could be in formations deeper than the Bakken, called the Winnipeg and Red River groups, somewhere around 12,000 feet deep.
Murphy said it’s all about the oil window and when it’s not in the Bakken or formations above it, the best place to look is below it.
“We’re using the best science available. I thought about this coming here and I don’t want to dash anybody’s hope. These are maps we’ve had out there since 2008 and companies are well aware,” Murphy said.
The companies are focused on the thermally mature area, but the expulsion area might be a way for some companies to get into the oil patch out on the edge with much cheaper leases, he said.
Figures from the state Department of Mineral Resources showed that 225 rigs could drill another 4,500 wells in two years to finish the first phase of Bakken development when leases are secured by at least one well. Murphy said it’ll take another 16 years to drill another 27,500 wells to fully develop the spacing units.
The first phase will provide up to 27,000 jobs in the oil industry and another 10,000 jobs in infrastructure, with 60,000 jobs at its peak, phasing into approximately 35,000 permanent jobs.