Shopfloor.org has posted often on the development of the Bakken Formation’s oil in North Dakota, Montana and the Prairie Provinces because it’s such a huge economic success story. The profitable development despite the depth (2 miles) of the shale formation testifies to the importance of new technology — advanced seismic exploration, hydrofracturing and directional drilling — and reaffirms the economic impact of domestic oil development.
The Wall Street Journal today reiterates these points with a well-done piece, “Oil Industry Booms — in North Dakota.” Excerpt:
The Bakken Shale deposit has been known and even tapped on occasion for decades. But technological improvements in the past two years have taken what was once a small, marginally profitable field and turned it into one of the fastest-growing oil-producing areas in the U.S.
The Bakken Shale had helped North Dakota oil production double in the past three years, surging to 80 million barrels in 2009—tiny relative to the more than seven billion barrels consumed by the U.S. every year, but enough to vault the state past Oklahoma and Louisiana to become the country’s fourth-biggest oil producer, after Texas, Alaska and California. If current projections hold, North Dakota’s oil production could pass Alaska’s by the end of the decade.
The Journal reports that the oil now pays off when prices hit $50 a barrel, down from $80.
Thanks largely to the oil boom, North Dakota’s economy has fought off the recession. The state’s unemployment rate in December was 4.3 percent.
Labor shortages are the inevitable downside. The Williston Area Development Foundation in northwestern North Dakota has a website set up to attract potential employees, RockintheBakken.com. There’s a jobs fair in Williston Thursday for people who hold commercial drivers licenses.