There are signs of a rebound in the oil patch. Prices have inched up, companies are hiring more workers and plans have been announced for more drilling.
While the state is looking forward to increased revenue, there’s also the reminder that more exploration brings inconvenience due to more people, more traffic and where wells are sited.That’s already being noticed at the Van Hook Recreational Site.
As reporter Lauren Donovan noted in a Sunday story, hundreds have cabins in the area and about 90,000 visitors came in one year to enjoy the outdoor fun. Slawson Exploration has started the process of developing a 11-well unit about 800 feet from the Van Hook ramp. Rigs will drill two miles below the lake bed and long lateral legs will stretch out three miles to tap oil out of the Bakken shale rock. Once Slawson was awarded the final federal permit on March 10, the company went right to work.
As Donovan described it, the Van Hook arm is a vast reach of water extending north from the main lake proper and is surrounded by mostly routine oil development. The arm is within the exterior boundaries of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, which has 1,600 oil wells, 10 rigs drilling and another 500 wells permitted.
Van Hook residents aren’t excited about the oil work outside their back doors. However, as residents throughout the oil patch discovered during the boom, oil has changed our lifestyles. Slawson did everything by the book. Many residents seem to be taking the oil development in stride. There’s been drilling in the area so residents are familiar with the noise and distractions. Plus, Van Hook when crowded with summer visitors isn’t the quietest spot in North Dakota.
Some would have preferred more of a setback from the ramp and there’s concern about what happens if an oil-related accident occurs. Life at Van Hook will likely develop a new routine, adjusting to development.
"All of us who live here, our life's been compromised by the Bakken," Arden Eide, who has a retirement home at Van Hook, told Donovan.
North Dakotans decided during the oil boom that we wanted the revenue. There’s not much that’s off limits to oil companies. We want them to be good citizens, but we realize we have to make sacrifices to get the oil. The oil patch shouldn’t be has hectic as it was a few years ago since the state has more infrastructure, companies have refined drilling processes and there are more pipelines to reduce truck traffic.
That doesn’t mean we can’t be disappointed by some of the changes that occur. Seeing buttes leveled in the Badlands for well sites can prompt a little sadness.
However, the state quickly got used to the revenue during the oil boom. Now, the state is feeling the pain of the loss of revenue as officials continue to make cuts.
The state needs to have a better pace of development and that appears likely. Most in the industry and state don’t expect the “Wild West” atmosphere to return. The return to drilling should be more measured. Improved highways and more pipelines will help. We must be ready to adapt to the changes that increased drilling will bring.