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Prepare for a “big surge” in Bakken

As the weather warms, the rig count in western North Dakota will begin to climb again. Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms says he has signed 530 orders for multi-well drilling pads, and another 334 are close to being approved. That translates to nearly

6,000 additional wells in the next three years — more than are currently producing in the state — and a huge bump up in production.

That means more hours for more workers. It means additional spending on materials and shipping. It means more oil and gas production, and that means more tax revenue for the state. More wages for North Dakota families.

It also will spin off in terms of more trucks on the roads, more miles traveled and more opportunities for traffic accidents. It means more risk of spills and other rig and pipeline issues. Job safety will be critical.

This kind of “big surge” means more of everything — good and not so good.

Maintaining some kind of balance in western North Dakota will be a challenge. It’s going to require hyper awareness in traffic on the part of drivers, whether they are behind the wheel of a car, pickup or semi-truck. When a car or pickup drifts across the center line and meets a semi, there’s not much that can go right. Keep in mind this will be another summer of major road construction.

Everyone working or traveling in western North Dakota needs to be smart and pay attention.

This isn’t a case of alarmism. Dropping 6,000 oil wells into an eight-county area over a relatively short period of time will have serious consequences if care isn’t taken.

The new Highway Patrol troopers and state inspectors are going to have their hands full. People are counting on them to step up.

The increased oil and gas production will put more pressure on flaring, despite pouring significant capital into capturing natural gas and using it or moving it to market.

Oil companies, workers, truck drivers, local and state officials and the people who live in western North Dakota all understand what’s at stake. They know what they have to do to succeed and be good public and private citizens. Everyone is forewarned.

The oil boom in western North Dakota will be a game-changer this summer.

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