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A oil rig in a wheat field on the Blackfoot Reservation sees a passing rainstorm on a summer afternoon. (Getty Images via NewsCred)

Montana’s Bakken boom might have gone bust

The Bakken oil boom in Montana has gone bust, or at least that’s the belief held by Terry Johnson, director of energy research at the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Montana Public Radio reports that Johnson said, “I would argue that the Bakken boom in Montana actually occurred back in 2005 and 2006. That the boom is really no longer that present in Montana at this point in time.”

Last Friday, Johnson gave a presentation in Missoula and said it appears that Montana’s oil wells in the Bakken formation have reached maturity and yielding less with each passing year. Now that the price of oil has declined over half within the past year, there’s not much motivation for companies to drill new wells.

According to MPR, Johnson said, “Continental Resources, the largest oil producer in Montana, is projected to cut their spending by 40 percent, and they also are projecting that they will reduce the number of drilling rigs by about a third, or 33 percent.” Oil production in the state has already declined compared to last year, and when combined with the decreased price of oil, the total value of the resource being extracted will be substantially less than the previous year. He predicts the overall value of oil produced in the state will drop by half with the coming year.

Related: Oil may boom, but infrastructure is busting Montana oil, gas counties

Natural gas production isn’t looking up either. Johnson said, “I’m not seeing any positive signs there because of our maturing wells, reduced investments, so I’m seeing probably about a 10 percent decline in natural gas.” Coal production, however, is expected to hold steady throughout the year, despite the shrinking of domestic demand as many coal-fired plants are decommissioned or converted to use natural gas.

The production decline of fossil fuels will inevitably reduce incoming tax revenue, though not in areas many would suspect. He explained, “When you talk about the state general fund budget, which is the budget that primarily funds the general operations of government, oil, natural gas, etc. are not a real large component.” The regions that will be most impacted will be county governments and school districts, due to the high percentage of oil and gas revenues they receive.

Although Johnson projects that fossil fuel production will be in decline over the coming year, he asserts that renewable energy is expected to continue growing.  Johnson told MPR, “I would argue the only real bright spot is wind. We’ve seen incredible growth, somewhere in the range of about 20 percent per year since about 2006 through 2007. From 2013 to 2014 it was almost 29 percent.” The continued growth of wind energy, however, will be highly dependent on the re-authorization of the federal wind energy production tax credit.

To read the full report from Montana Public Radio, click here.


  1. In Kalispell they may not be much oil but the pay checks are still rolling in , without it we would be in deep doodoo

  2. My frac crew lived over there in Richland county for almost 3 years. Frackin every day

  3. I has not gone bust it is being idled down because they are not getting the price they want so they are slowing production so they can jack the prices up again and when they do it will not come back down and $5.00 a gallon will be cheap so before you all feel bad about the oil field =s remember your the one who has to pay the coming prices.

    • How do your figure? The spot price for Williston Basin sweet crude (which is some of the finest crude on the planet) is about 68 cents a gallon right now. No business is going to spend $8 million on a single well and then sell their product at that price.

  4. I have fraced many locations in Roosevelt and Richland County. I believe drilling wells in North Dakota is more appealing because the formations are well known making it easier to drill and produce faster. Montana formations are just being discovered and the Bakken and Three Forks are in the 7000 vertical depth range around Conrad Area. Much oil and gas to be discovered.

  5. I worked roustabout in richland field it slowed down at first with leases not being signed, and now that the price dropped CRI had 2 rigs that are now moved out. Personal opinion I felt we was destroying our wonderful game rich part of the state.

  6. As the director of energy research for Montana, he comes off as anti-oil and gas to me.

  7. I can assure you things are still humming right along here in the Bakken of Montana! There is a well being drilled just a mile or so south of my house and then it will move a mile to the west and drill another! The truck traffic has been just as busy as it was before!

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