The Bakken oil patch has brought tremendous prosperity to North Dakota and propelled America toward greater energy independence. But concerns about the environmental effects of extracting the crude and the safety of transporting it has prompted some observers to call for a slowdown to development.
In an upcoming series, NPR is shining a spotlight on the booming oil industry in the Great Plains.
On The Daily Circuit, we lead a discussion featuring Todd Melby, lead producer of Black Gold Boom; Ron Ness, executive director of the North Dakota Petroleum Council; and Jim Fluglie, author of The Prairie Blog.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BAKKEN OIL PATCH
• The New Oil Landscape (National Geographic)
Since early 2006, production from what's known as the Bakken formation has increased nearly 150-fold, to more than 660,000 barrels a day, moving North Dakota into second place among domestic suppliers, behind Texas and ahead of Alaska.
No one but a handful of industry insiders saw that coming. Now some optimistic oilmen predict that the state's daily output could eventually close in on Texas'--at two million barrels. The number of wells could increase from the roughly 8,000 operating today to between 40,000 and 50,000. By the time the frenzy ends, perhaps 20 years from now, as many as 14 billion barrels of high-quality crude may have been removed. Until more pipelines are built in this landlocked rural region, most of the oil and water will be transported by truck. So will everything else needed for swift, large-scale development: gravel, construction materials, tools, machinery. The prairie is being industrialized. If the transformation needs an emblem, there's no better candidate than Connell's 18-wheeler.
Change of such scope and intensity is bound to raise questions.