Oil drilling rig counts are at an all-time high… or dropping off, depending which report you read which week for which area. Overall, industry source Baker Hughes reports relatively stable activity, declining slightly to levels just below last year nationally. Last week there were 895 rigs drilling in Texas, 199 in Oklahoma, and 186 in North Dakota.
Mark Haggerty with Headwaters Economics, out of Bozeman, Montana, wrapped up the Western Planner Conference earlier this month in Billings, looking at oil and gas development in the Rocky Mountains and northern Great Plains from a community perspective. The Headwaters website features some nice data visualizations, including: Oil and Gas Drilling: Rig Weeks Activity 2001 – 2011, Measuring Total Rig Weeks and Changes in Rig Weeks by County. I love maps, and I love how these maps are presented. I borrow a sample of the static images below, which basically cover states in the Mountain Time Zone, to give one an idea of the scale of growth in exploration activity in the Bakken and other nearby production areas. To get the full benefit click over to their site and play with the time series.
The cluster of red dots in southwestern Wyoming is the Pinedale-Green River area. Weld County (Greeley) and the Front Range have had some oil & gas development for a long time, as has Southwestern Colorado/Northern New Mexico’s San Juan basin. And of course the Permian Basin bleeds over from West Texas.
Fast forward five years. Around Pinedale and in the Uinta/Piceance basin of on the Colorado/Utah line natural gas takes off. Weld County’s Niobrara shale & the San Juan fill in. And up in the Badlands, the Bakken hits horizontal oil first in Montana then oil & gas in North Dakota.
Boom. Full fledged fill-in-the-dots in Dakota. Headwaters also notes that as the price gap between oil and natural gas widens, drill rigs increasingly target oil rather than gas. I’ve read that while both are coming out of wells in North Dakota, transportation barriers mean at least 1/3 of Bakken gas is just getting burned off for now.
Where will the rigs go next? There are many considerations, from transportation and technology to water and weather. If I knew where I’d be out there as a Landman instead of here in Minnesota making maps.