A multimillion dollar study could change the way North Dakota's Bakken is developed.
In 2013, two-thirds of well sites had more than one oil well on them.
Donnell Preskey has more on how the oil industry is trying to determine what's the magic number of wells on every pad.
A $128 million dollar study will look at how many wells can be on one pad to optimize production -- is it one, six, or twenty-eight?
A multi-well drilling pad in Dunn County is putting that question to the test.
"As a regulator, this well density business is job one. It sets the stage for the next 20 years," says Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms.
Continental Resources will drill 20 wells in this unit. With horizontal legs reaching into the five productive layers of the Bakken and Three Forks.
The key is determining how many wells are needed to drain each layer.
Helms says, "as you expand and do phase 3 drilling across this 15,000 square miles. It's going to determine the number of pads and the optimum number of wells per pad."
Which is important given that Helms has approved drilling orders for more than 1.5 times the wells that are currently producing.
"Clearly knowing what the right well density is will make it much more rational in how we develop the oil," says Helms.
There are some large well sites that have permitted.
This one is known as the Atlanta Pad near Williston.
14 wells have been drilled, only two are currently producing.
Another site near Ross could have 18 wells on it early this year.
"What's the optimal number of wells on a pad to drill at one time and bring on. So you don't sit there with a drilling rig for 12 months and you haven't created any cash flow. You've had only expenses for a long time and you may overload the natural gas gathering systems," says Helms.
They are all factors the study will look at and provide answers that will shape the future of drilling in North Dakota.
The study being done at EERC in Grand Forks is also looking at enhanced oil recovery using CO2 injections.
Helms says the results are fantastic.
That may be 20 years out in the Bakken, Three Forks.
He says a 1% increase using CO2 is 3 billion barrels of oil.
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