Impressions of a new geologist after a year in Bakken

In an article titled The Bakken Boom and the New Wild West – A Young Geologist’s Perspective, a newly graduated geologist, Mr. R. Tyler Powers, describes his first year working in the Bakken oil field. It is hard work, typically running 90 hours a week. Looks like it is tremendously rewarding to a geologist.

As a desk-bound accountant by attitude and training, I’m astounded at the technology of drilling. I stand in awe of the team that can drill 8,000 or 12,000 feet down, turn the well 90 degrees over the distance of a few more hundred feet, and hit an oil layer that is a dozens of feet thick. Then drill another 10,000 feet through that 100 foot wide layer.

Here is a mild hint of the challenge:

Due to the inconsistent nature of the Bakken, caused by varying depositional environments and the extreme conditions the equipment is expected to endure, the drilling work can be tedious and highly frustrating. Often, an indicator rock layer within the Bakken is used as a guide to help navigate during lateral drilling, but these layers can simply disappear or pinch out, leaving geologists flying blind until another indicator can be determined. Even more exasperating are equipment failures. Any failure within the system, whether it is with the gamma monitoring tool or the drill bit itself, necessitates a “trip,” meaning all the pipe must be pulled out of the ground. The tripping process is lengthy, often taking several days, and can add weeks to the drilling project.

If you are just learning about the oil field, like I am, you’ll enjoy the article for the comments on safety, camaraderie, challenges of living in the man camps, life in Williston, and the professional & financial rewards from the open frontier.

Hat tip to Bruce Oksol at Million Dollar Way.

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