The History of the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota

The History of the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota

The Bakken Formation is a large source rock for oil and stretches through parts of Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. It is named after Henry O. Bakken, a farmer who discovered the formation while drilling for oil.

In 2013, the USGS estimated the Bakken held 7.4 billion barrels of oil. The history of the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota recounts the impacts of innovation on oil extraction in this region.

Bakken Oil Fields Timeline

Read the following timeline to understand the trajectory of discovery and advancements in the Bakken.

  • 1953: The Bakken Formation starts to produce oil.
  • 1995: Geologist Dick Findley realizes that though the middle dolomitic member of the Bakken Formation holds less oil than the upper or lower shale members, it is better at maintaining open fractures.
  • 2000: Horizontal wells in the middle Bakken grow the Elm Coulee Oil Field in Montana.
  • 2000: Elm Coulee averages 53,000 barrels per day. This oil field was key to further Bakken’s development.
  • 2006–2007: The discovery of the Parshall Oil Field in North Dakota shifts focus onto the Bakken from Montana to North Dakota. The number of Bakken wells in North Dakota increases from 300 to 457.
  • 2009: Larger hydraulic fracturing treatments make oil-drilling west of North Dakota’s Nesson Anticline possible.
  • 2010–2012: According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, the number of wells in North Dakota triples. Each well produces about 145 barrels.
  • 2015: Total oil production peaks at 1.15 million barrels a day, according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. The EIA reports a production value about 9 percent larger.


Current Considerations for the Bakken

North Dakota lacks the infrastructure to deliver hydrocarbons out of Bakken. Some producers transport oil by truck or railroad. Over half of the production of the North Dakota Bakken area is sent out by rail, and the trains have been in several major accidents in the region.

It is easier to store and transport oil than gas. Without the ability to produce and export the gas, it is burned on site. This flaring exacts a high economic cost and produces negative environmental effects.

Shifting Into the Future

As the history of the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota shows, conditions in the field continually improve. Just as the engineering and implementation of oil extraction has changed, other practical tools used on sites evolve. Using the best equipment creates safer working conditions and greater efficiency.

For greater lighting flexibility on site, C-MOR’s patented mobile lighting tower extends 40 to 125 feet above the ground. Each angled LED lamp limits shading, shadowing, and slows light dissipation. Thanks to this superior engineering, the mobile lighting tower reaches a maximum light extension of up to 160 yards in all directions from its base.

Increased work site visibility directly decreases slips, trips, and falls. To bring your work site’s light systems up to speed, get in touch with C-MOR Energy Services.