Effects of the Oil Boom on Williston, ND

It is no longer tranquil in the Peace Garden State, as prospectors flock Williston North Dakota in search of black gold. The oil boom sparked two to three years ago when Halliburton Co. from Houston, saw it fit to sponsor a wild card prospector in the area. At around the same time, Marathon Oil Co. began to purchase leases from landowners in the area. These major drillers paved way for other prospectors, interested in the 150 million or so barrels of crude, buried deep in the Bakken formation according to state sources.

Historically, Williston was a sleepy City with a predominantly agriculture driven economy. It has a population of less than fifteen thousand folk, albeit this is likely to have grown tremendously since the last head count in 2010. The livestock arena in Williston still holds its weekly auctions and the grain elevator is operational. Eco-tourism, a small part of the areas economy, has slightly waned as more locals seek greener pastures in the oil fields. Rapid population growth as well as infrastructure development has taken place, as oil companies seek to establish themselves in the region.

For a good number of years, oil companies took a lackadaisical approach to finding significant onshore oil reserves in the US. Most of them were convinced there was no commercially viable onshore oil field remaining in the states. Crude petroleum production in the US fell from 9.2 million barrels a day in the early seventies, to about 5.4 million barrels in 2006. Presently, the US imports most of its petrol from the Arabian Peninsula and Central American countries. However, the Department of Energy contends that there is potential for further onshore drilling, so long as explorers search in the right places.

The Bakken formation, stretching from parts of Montana, North Dakota to Canada has always been the focal point for prospectors. The exact amount of oil in the region remains unknown with geologists making random guesses. Federal geochemists estimate the Bakken play to hold close to 200 billion barrels of crude, enough to eclipse the Alaskan Prudhoe Bay as the largest oil field in the US. Nevertheless, the oil reserves are deeply entrenched beneath miles of rock formations, making some oil companies reluctant to invest in costly frac drilling. However, the entrance of Marathon, Brigham, Crescent Point Energy Trust, EOG resources and Halliburton oil companies to the area is likely to attract the attention of other major players in the nearby future.

Consequently, residents of Williston North Dakota have begun to feel the effects of the oil boom in the area. Single bedroom apartments that previously rented for about $400 now go for $800 to $1000 monthly. It now costs $1000 or more, to rent a mobile home, while hotel rooms remain virtually unavailable. Schools, colleges and private healthcare facilities also find it challenging to recruit staff members, since they cannot afford to buy homes on the meager salaries on offer. A report from the Commissioner of Higher Education showed a significant drop in college enrollment as high school graduates opt to work in the oil fields instead of going to college.

Officials at the Williston office of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department recently asked for permission to house its staff members temporarily at its facilities, due to lack of housing in the area. Residents are also lamenting of potential damage to existing infrastructure due to ongoing constructions in the area. Sometime back, truckloads of building materials headed from Fargo to Williston North Dakota were delayed by congestion in scheduling, since many materials are headed towards the once sleepy town. However, on a positive note, Glendive College, the major campus in the area has received more state money; in comparison to other schools in the US, which are smarting from budget cuts.

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