North Dakota was aggressive in selling the oil industry on the Bakken shale formation. Part of the state’s sales pitch came in the form of research that defined the volume of recoverable oil in western North Dakota. Hard knowledge about oil reserves and the technologies needed to extract it gave the North Dakota oil boom its beginning.

The decision by the state Industrial Commission to partner with a group of private companies to do more research on the Bakken and Three Forks formations then makes sense.

The state has decided to kick $8 million into a three-year, $115 million research project to further explore drilling possibilities in the Bakken and Three Forks formations, with a mind to reduce the environmental footprint of wells, including flaring of natural gas, and bring down drilling and production costs.

The research will be done by the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks.

Continental Resources, Marathon Oil Company, Whiting Petroleum and a number of other companies will be providing the private funding or in-kind resources for the project.

Crude oil production is here to stay, and it’s in the state’s best interest to do it right. The research may help resolve some of the challenges oil companies and the state face in continued oil exploration and production in the state’s western oil-producing counties.

The intentions are good. The “expected results” (according to the grant application) include:

-- greater understanding of the key formation and the volume of recoverable oil.

-- less truck traffic and less dust.

-- reduced road maintenance, water and disposal costs.

-- reduced land impacts.

-- increased revenues from products captured earlier in the “well life cycle.”

These hoped-for results are important to the citizens of North Dakota and the companies operating in the oil patch. Investing state money in the research means North Dakotans will have access to the results. It will help people here, as well as elected officials, make better decisions about what’s happening in the oil industry and on the land.

Reduced expenses for oil companies means more profit, and that benefits many people in the state. A reduced environmental footprint — reduced flaring, improved disposal of wastes and more efficient use of water — benefits the companies and the general public. The investment has all the markings of a good thing for North Dakota and its people.

 


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