BLINKING RED LIGHT: Big Trouble Ahead For Bakken Oil Production

by Steve St. Angelo, SRSRocco Report

The glory days of the Great Bakken Oil Field are soon coming to an end.  With the collapse of the price of West Texas Intermediate Crude, shale oil production from the Bakken is in big trouble.  How much trouble?  Well, if we understand how much of its production growth came in 2014, the situation is dire indeed.

Ironically, Americans have been lulled into believing that the United States is heading towards energy independence, while the opposite is the case.  Not only has the Bakken given us a false sense of energy security, when it finally peaks… it will decline in stunning rapid fashion.  This is what the media, oil industry and public fail to realize.

The rate of Bakken oil production growth over the past six years was quite impressive.  However, it did so based on certain requirements:

1) High oil prices

2) Low interest financing

3) Massive drilling program

Without these three conditions, the majority of oil in the Bakken would have remained in the ground.  According to the EIA’s January Drilling Productivity Report, the Bakken is estimated to produce a record 1.28 million barrels a day (mbd) in January.  That’s a lot of oil, but actually not that much in the whole scheme of things.

According to an interesting statistic from, what North Dakota produces in one day, 1,187,206 barrels of oil (Nov. 2014), the U.S. burns in 81 minutes, and the world in 20 minutes.  So, while the Bakken has provided a much needed domestic supply of oil, it’s still a drop in the bucket.

(Note:  the 1,187,206 barrels of oil per day is for the entire state of North Dakota including conventional and unconventional oil outside the Bakken)

Furthermore, the Bakken oil supply is not sustainable… especially at the current low oil price.  This is especially true if we look at the following chart.  Rune Likvern of FrationalFlow, posted this chart in his most recent article:

Bakken Production Rune Likvern #1

This chart shows the increase of North Dakota (ND) Bakken oil production from 2008 to October 2014.  I took his chart and added some annotations below:

Bakken Production SRSrocco Annotations

Each color in the chart represents new production in a given year.  As you can see, 50% of ND Bakken oil production growth came in 2014 (actually, from Jan-Oct 2014).  Which means, if no new wells were drilled in 2014, total oil production from the ND Bakken would be half or 550,000 barrels per day.

Also, two important additional factors to notice from the chart is the “INCREASED” rate of production growth and slope of decline in later years.  In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the increase of oil production and level of decline were relatively shallow.  However, in 2011 this picked up considerably and by 2014, it’s experiencing the sharpest angles ever.

If you look at the production in 2014 (Grey color), you will see the overall production line and decline curves are steeper than ever.  Basically, the companies drilling in the Bakken are drilling faster and faster just to keep production growing.  This drilling frenzy may have continued for a period longer if oil prices remained high, but with the collapse of West Texas Intermediate below $50 a barrel (and possibly lower to $30), production at the Bakken is in real trouble.

Bakken Oil Price Collapse

Moreover, the companies producing oil in the Bakken pay between $10-$15 per barrel for transportation, which cuts the market price even further.

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