50,000 wells to go in North Dakota?


Drilling rig in North Dakota. Photo by Melisa Ulvog.
50,000 more wells over the next 25 years? Drilling rig in North Dakota. Photo by Melisa Ulvog.

Guesses on the total number of wells expected to be drilled in the Bakken and Three Forks keep increasing.

8/14 – Amy Dalrymple at Oil Patch Dispatch – 10,000 Bakken wells drilled, 50,000 to go, Helms says – Try this on for size – The wells drilled to this point in Bakken field are one-sixth of the total that will eventually be drilled.

For every well in place, there are five more that will be drilled.

That prediction is from Director Lynn Helms. The total is higher than I’ve seen before but consistent with the idea that there will be drilling for a long time. Think decades more of the activity level seen in 2013 and 2014.

Back in July 2012, I discussed that Mr. Helms thought there could eventually be 39,000 wells in Bakken and Three Forks layers.

Bruce Oksol expands the discussion – 8/15 – The Million Dollar Way – One-Sixth Of The Bakken/Three Forks Has Been Drilled – He recalls the previous discussions were 48,000 wells to drill out Bakken.

So you can see the progression: 39,000, 48,000, 60,000.

At about 2,000 wells a year (not the current pace, but a pace which would be sustainable for decades once the price goes up) it would take another 25 years to drill another 50,000 wells. That takes the level of drilling happening in 2013 and 2014 out through 2040.

For perspective, Mr. Oksol points out the Bakken boom started in 2007. This is year 8.

At this point, future development will depend on price. Mr. Oksol speculates:

At $15 oil, they’ve probably drilled every well they will drill in the Bakken.

At $150 oil, my hunch is they will drill a few more than 60,000 before it’s all over.


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