North Dakota’s been the talk of the U.S. oil world for some time. That’s not changing soon.

For years, producers have salivated over the Bakken oil shale play, a massive oil reserve about 350 miles to Casper’s northeast and encompassing parts of eastern Montana and western North Dakota.

Activity has spiked lately, especially in North Dakota, previously known more for its corn and wheat than its massive energy resources.

Look at the numbers. In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau said state oil exports generated about $215 million for the Flickertail State. That number grew to $1.1 billion by 2012.

And while one state’s flourish isn’t always another state’s failure, it has had an effect on Wyoming.

The Cowboy State averaged 99 drilling rigs in 2006. At any point that same year, about 32 rigs were breaking North Dakota ground. Six years later, those numbers have more than been turned on their heads.

As of May 3, 41 rig crews were looking for oil or natural gas in Wyoming. In North Dakota, there were 174. And there may be more soon.

The U.S. Geological Survey this week announced that the levels of recoverable oil in the Bakken shale — once enough to drive thousands of roustabouts and oil executives to fields near Williston, N.D. — is actually twice what was thought.

Twice. Two times. 7.4 billion barrels of oil.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2010 estimated Wyoming, for perspective, sits atop 567 million barrels of the resource. It’s no wonder why a driller would go to North Dakota first.

Less Wyo boom

The latest forecast is only going to prolong North Dakota’s oil producing dominance in the Rockies and Upper Midwest regions. That means while some plays in Wyoming remain strong, they’re not going to boom as much as they could.

It’s not that Wyoming and North Dakota can’t coexist as booming oil plays, it’s that they can’t both command all of an industry’s attention. As long as North Dakota’s got oil, more companies will gravitate north.

That means more private development up north. More government revenue. And more jobs.

In fact, a study released this week by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve proved pretty conclusively that the highest concentration of jobs in the Upper Rockies and Midwest is in North Dakota.

Their study showed that for every 100 miles or so you moved from the Bakken, the unemployment rate jumped anywhere from half a percentage point to two percent. In the immediate area of the play, for example, only about three percent of people don’t have jobs. In Wyoming’s range, about 300 to 400 miles away, that number tended to be closer to six percent.


To recap: North Dakota’s got more oil. North Dakota’s got more jobs. That’s not a coincidence.

Does that mean Wyoming can’t be a legitimate oil producer for years to come? No. But what it does mean is that the Equality State is less likely to gain the attention it may have gotten otherwise. And if natural gas and coal continue their lull, the state could lose position in the energy power rankings.

As long as Wyoming has oil and gas in the ground, drillers will come. But how many remains a question.

And that brightness over the horizon, emanating from North Dakota? It looks like that’s from more than gas flares



04/07/2015 11:52am

They don’t even allow their people to speak in English like the Germen’s no doubts they are very much powerful people and have success in every field of life they hate English language they avoid to speak this.

03/20/2016 10:44am

My uncle works in the oilfield business, although i don’t know much about it, it was interesting to learn some of the safety tips you had on your post. I found your article to be the most informational. Thank you for sharing about the many different ways to prevent accidents!I am an employee of

07/03/2017 7:51pm

This is good news. It is great that North Dakota has a great future in the oil industry. This will serve as a stepping stone for North Dakota to achieve a high status. This will attract investors and businesses. North Dakota's economic status will increase because of this. I hope other state has also a bright future in the oil industry because it will increase both economies of the state and the country.


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