Bakken, Three Forks Boost North Dakota Oil Production to New Record

Crude oil production from the Williston Basin’s Bakken and Three Forks formations boosted North Dakota’s crude oil production to a new record of more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in April and May of this year.

Advances in drilling methods and technology, a better understanding of the Bakken’s geology, higher crude oil prices, and the formation’s large size and number of wells have contributed to higher production and potential for future growth, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Aug. 4 Today in Energy report.

Bakken oil production started in the 1950s at North Dakota’s Antelope field, but the discovery of the Parshall field in 2007 launched large-scale production growth from the play.

“As more wells are drilled in the Bakken, the base resource becomes better defined,” EIA said. “Because the Bakken has a relatively low thickness (not exceeding 250 feet) and low permeability, better information on the location of available resources can quickly translate into an increase in crude oil production volumes.”

The Bakken and Three Forks formations are located in western North Dakota and eastern Montana.

In June, Wood Mackenzie estimated that 21 billion barrels of light sweet crude oil will ultimately be recovered from the Bakken and Three Forks play, higher than the U.S. Geological Survey’s April 2013 estimate of 7.4 billion barrels.

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at


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