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Bakken Boom Feels Fewer Birth Pangs (Part 3)

Bakken.com’s Mike Kopp recently went traveling in the Bakken region with business manager Andrew Lutz, what follows is his personal journey through the shale.

By: Mike Kopp, Bakken.com

Farther West

Multiple oil wells dot the view between Stanley and Williston along Highway 2.

Multiple oil wells dot the view between Stanley and Williston along Highway 2.

During our drive through the Bakken region, we scanned the horizon checking out rigs, pump jacks, storage facilities and support services.  Our roadside survey found gave visual proof to recent maps and stats that indicate most of the oil activity spreads from McKenzie County east.  As we drove west in to Sidney, Montana fewer drilling rigs and pump jacks were spotted.  Sidney is home to many of the oil field services that Bakken.com is works with.  Compared to Watford City and Williston, life in Sidney is more peaceful and orderly.  Though activity is further east, westward expansion is predicted.

Traffic in Sidney is much less congested than in cities further east in the Bakken.

Traffic in Sidney is much less congested than in cities further east in the Bakken.

Sidney is home to many regional offices.  Some oil field services, landmen and engineers working in the Bakken may have local offices in other cities, but they are headquartered in Sidney.  Most work from the home offices in Sidney can be done by phone or Internet– away from the intensity. It provides staff a quick access of about an hour to most of the oil activity east of Sidney while at the same time being a step removed from the congestion.  Either Highway 200 or 68 carry most of the traffic. With Andrew at the helm, we drove 68 to Sidney and Highway 200 on the return trip.  (Incidentally, Highway 200 across the Yellowstone gives travelers a look at the region’s only lift bridge – used only once.)  We found Highway 68 to be the quickest with the least traffic. Highway 200 requires drivers to negotiate hilly terrain with more truck traffic.

Regional Beauty

     Finally, to those who cry the beauty of the Badlands is marred by oil exploration, I must argue.  For 20 years I’ve backpacked, camped, cross country skied and rode horses in the region.  It’s still beautiful.  Oil companies meet environmental regulations, and go even further to try to do their work without disturbing the natural habitat of elk, deer, mountain lions, and big horn sheep (which were eliminated from the region in the 1920’s but have been brought back along with the oil field activity).

kopp19 As Andrew and I discovered, the beauty is still there to behold, even from the heated protection of a car.  Early morning jaunts in to the area can produce amazing images that incorporate the wells, pumps and roads of oil activity.

The birth pangs of the Bakken Boom are giving way to a more settled way of life.    It’s not as bad as you heard out here in western North Dakota. Embellished and enhanced stories repeated by those outside the region do a dis-service to the reality of the dynamic benefits of oil.  Once again, as with power plants, coal mines and farmland, this part of America is serving the needs of the United States and the world.  North Dakota’s cultural landscape has changed much over the years. That’s why there are so many abandoned homesteads and buildings across the landscape.  The current oil activity may bring a change in culture, but what hasn’t changed in America in the last 200 years?

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