With the price of oil soaring and President Biden broadcasting that the United States is cutting off Russian oil and gas imports, the Montana Petroleum Association announced that they are reopening the Bakken oil fields, bringing many of their operations back online.
While the circumstances that led to these rising prices are terrible- a war of aggression against Ukraine by the bloodthirsty Putin, this is great news for Montanans, eager to take advantage of the boom after enduring years of crippling busts. In particular, the Bakken oil fields in Eastern Montana are ripe for reopening- being profitable and able to balance expense and profits at $80 a barrel. With the price hitting $130 today, and no indication that it’s going any lower, the industry is coming back alive.
However, Alan Olson, Executive Director of the Montana Petroleum Association, explains that it’s not a simple matter of turning a few knobs and putting out a few wanted ads in order to get started. Many workers moved away after the last bust while others found jobs in other fields. Unemployment in the state is at a 14-year low and there’s a lack of personnel and supplies; with everything from standpipes, tubing, kelly hoses, pumps, casings, and even the derricks experiencing shortages amid supply chain constraints. Olson notes:
“We are scrambling to find good employees and at the same time we’re still on the hunt for equipment…The uptick in the economy with the downturn of the industry; it kind of turned into a perfect storm.”
Just three months ago, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) completed their oil and gas estimate for the Bakken and Three Forks Formations in the Williston Basin of Montana and North Dakota, updating their 2013 USGS assessment. They found there are an estimated 4.3 billion barrels of unconventional oil and 4.9 trillion cubic feet of unconventional natural gas in the two formations.
This article was sponsored in part by David Dunn for HD 8. Dunn resides in Flathead County.