Bakken | Prairie Public Broadcasting


Today marks the wide release of author, playwright, and musician Michael Patrick F. Smith's debut memoir, "The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood and Transformation in an American Boomtown." (Penguin Random House)

Smith and Prairie Public's Erik Deatherage have known each other for years, from their days working in the Baltimore music scene. In this lively conversation, you'll hear about Smith's year of self-discovery in the Bakken, his admiration of a certain longtime Prairie Public music host, and the beauty of North Dakota's unforgiving landscape. We'll also premiere a song from Smith's band, also called The Good Hand, titled "Truckstop." 

Listen to their full conversation:

Helium in the Williston Basin?

Dec 6, 2019

The Williston Basin is known for its oil and gas reserves.

But helium?

"We know that there's helium there in the Basin," said state geologist Ed Murphy. "That's from what little records we have on that."

Murphy said the Canadians have much more information on this.

"They've got economic quantities of helium, produced in the 1960s and 1970s," Murphy said. "They're back in now with a big drilling program."

Murphy said that program is centered on southern Saskatchewan.

"And we're saying, 'Let's take a look at North Dakota,'" Murphy said.

Rent and Frozen Pillows: How Bakken Housing Evolved with the Oil Boom

Oct 23, 2018
Todd Melby

If you drove through the Bakken a few years ago, you would have seen dozens of new hotels, RV parks and mobile homes that popped up when the oil rigs rolled into town.

Housing prices soared as people flocked to western North Dakota. They came for jobs on the rigs, or to drive truck or lay pipe, and they needed places to live. So too did many new teachers, police officers and health care workers who supported the growing populations of towns like Williston and Watford City.

The Bakken Gears Up For Its Second Decade

Nov 10, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

A decade into North Dakota’s shale fracking boom, the state consistently produces one million barrels of oil per day -- and officials here are looking to boost that number.

North Dakota is the nation’s second-biggest oil producer behind only Texas. This rural state has become a huge player not just on the national oil scene, but globally as well.

The governor here is dreaming even bigger: he wants to double North Dakota’s daily oil production.

Oil patch growth creates funding nightmare

Nov 7, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

The decade-long shale fracking boom in North Dakota sent the population of oil patch communities soaring. These towns beefed up their public services to accommodate all the newcomers, but this sent their finances plummeting at a time when the price of oil tanked.

Now many oil patch cities are tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. They’re looking for stable funding to pay back their loans while hoping all the new residents choose to stay.

Oil wells transfer to new Bakken operators

Oct 10, 2017
Amy Sisk / Prairie Public

North Dakota officials have noticed an uptick in the number of oil wells transferring ownership in the Bakken.

Nearly 700 wells are in the process of being transferred from longtime North Dakota operators to new ones, mineral resources director Lynn Helms said Tuesday in his department’s monthly oil and gas briefing.That number’s unusual given that, recently, only 100 wells were transferred in a typical month.

“Companies have re-evaluated their business model and decided to focus on an area where they’re having greater success,”  Helms said.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

No word yet from the US Geological Survey on whether it will do an updated assessment of the oil in the Bakken and Three Forks formations.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and others asked USGS for that reassessment recently. That could lead to more exploration and development in the Bakken.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms saids USGS is now talking about a full Williston Basin-wide assessment in a few years. Helms said some oil investors have told him that might be a better approach.

Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

When a company enters oil and gas country, it wants to know there’s enough oil and gas in the ground that business will be robust for a long time.

One way it gets that assurance? An estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey showing how much oil and gas remains untapped.

Officials in North Dakota are pushing the agency do this for its Bakken and Three Forks formations.

Back in 2008 the USGS did a study in the Bakken, concluding the shale play contained 3.7 billion barrels of oil available for operators to extract.

Lightning And Oil Country: A Volatile Mix

Aug 28, 2017
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

Dozens of times during the summer as the rain picks up here on the prairie, suddenly, there’s a flash.

“You can be sitting there watching it, enjoying the night and all the sudden, boom!” said Kyle Chernenko, a resident of Grassy Butte.

Chernenko has watched these prairie thunderstorms his whole life from his home in North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. He’s the volunteer fire chief in this small town.

Bakken, other shale plays 'recovering' from downturn

Jul 18, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The program director for the Bakken Conference and Expo – being held in Bismarck this week – said after a few years of being on “pause,” the Bakken – and other shale plays around the country – are rebounding.

"I think there's definitely a sense in the industry that they're more comfortable with where oil prices are and what that means," said Luke Geiver, editor of North American Shale Magazaine. "You hear the term 'cautiously optimistic.' And whether it's in Hobbs, NM, Midland, TX or Watford City, ND, I think that's the term."