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Bakken Weather A Serious Issue

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | November 11, 2013

When oil production levels in the Williston Basin surpass 1 million barrels per day late this year or early next, it will be in spite of the weather. Although early to midfall is typically considered a high production time due to stable weather patterns in the region, this year has been an exception. In August, the Williston Basin surpassed 900,000 barrels of oil per day, but during the same month, the number of well completions fell from 251 to 130. The reason: bad weather.

During his monthly Director's Cut conference call, Lynn Helms, head of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, explained that he was unsure why the well completion numbers dropped so dramatically. Thanks to a call-in from a well completion staff member of a Bakken-based firm, Helms was able to explain why well completions had dropped. According to Helms, the caller explained that a 2-inch rain in August had created extremely muddy conditions, stranding drilling rigs on well sites. The weather delayed the drilling schedule for several wells, which, in turn, delayed the completion of those wells. And, many of the delayed wells were located on multi well pads. For most operators, concerns for safety do not allow for completing a well while a drilling rig is on the well pad.

In addition to August delays, October rains will also slow production in the Williston Basin, potentially stripping 10 percent of the working days for the year. McKenzie County was forced to shut down roads due to heavy rain. The shutdowns created a similar situation the play experienced in September, with drilling rigs stranded. Only a handful of saltwater disposal transportation operations were allowed to travel the roads during the shutdown.

Although there are currently 450 wells awaiting completion services as of October, the pace between completing wells and drilling new wells has leveled off Helms believes. And, this fall, up to 9 drilling rigs could be coming to the Bakken.