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US: Bakken oil fields mark billionth barrel of oil
US: Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, Montana mark billionth barrel of crude oil production
By JAMES MacPHERSON
Associated Press
2014-04-30 03:22 AM

BISMARCK, North Dakota (AP) -- Oil drillers targeting the rich Bakken shale formation in western North Dakota and eastern Montana have produced 1 billion barrels of crude, data from the two states show.

Drillers first targeted the Bakken in Montana in 2000 and moved into North Dakota about five years later using advanced horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques to recover oil trapped in a thin layer of dense rock nearly two miles (three kilometers) beneath the surface.

North Dakota has generated 852 million barrels of Bakken crude, and Montana has produced about 151 million barrels through the first quarter of 2014, data show.

Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc., one the oldest and biggest operators in the Bakken, said two-thirds of the production has come in the past three years.

"This milestone validates the immense potential of the Bakken field, and development is just beginning," the company said in a statement.

Experts had known for decades that the Bakken held millions of barrels of crude, but it wasn't until oil prices reached record levels that the technology was developed to the point of being able to exploit the formation.

The Bakken encompasses some 25,000 square miles (64,750 sq. kilometers) in North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. About two-thirds of the acreage is in western North Dakota.

Unlocking the once-perplexing formation has propelled North Dakota from America's ninth-largest oil producer in 2006 to No. 2, behind Texas.

The Bakken and the Three Forks formation directly below it account for about 94 percent of North Dakota's current oil production, which is nearing 1 million barrels a day, said Alison Ritter, a North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman. Three Forks production is counted toward Bakken production.

North Dakota began producing oil in 1951, when crude was struck on a wheat farm near Tioga in the northwest part of the state. The state tallied its 1 billionth barrel of oil in 1989 and the 2 billionth barrel in 2011. The state is on track to tally its 3 billionth barrel of oil this year or next, Ritter said.

Jim Halvorson, a petroleum geologist with the Montana Board of Oil and Gas, said his state has produced 1.8 billion barrels of oil since 1916.

The U.S. Geological Survey has called the Bakken the largest continuous oil accumulation it had ever assessed. The agency, which bases its data largely on information from oil company and state drilling records, said up to 7.4 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the Bakken and the underlying Three Forks using current technology.

To capture crude from the formations, companies drill down nearly two miles (three kilometers) then angle the well sideways for about another two to three miles. A pressurized concoction of water, chemicals and grit is injected to break open oil-bearing rock, which allows the oil to flow to the well.

That technique, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, has been blamed for endangering water quality in some states. North Dakota regulators say the state's water sources are protected by thousands of feet of geologic formations atop fracturing operations.

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