Oil production is booming in North Dakota, hitting more than one million barrels per day in April and May, according to government data. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling have played a major role.
According to the Energy Information Administration, increased production from the “Williston Basin’s Bakken and Three Forks formations” have led North Dakota to become the second-largest oil-producing U.S. state, beating out California and Alaska.
North Dakota produces 12 percent of total U.S. oil production. In 2012 alone, oil production in North Dakota increased 177 percent from 2010 to 2013 while production in Texas increased 119 percent.
Why has oil production boomed so much in recent years? EIA notes, “Although Bakken oil production initially began in the 1950s at Antelope Field in North Dakota, large-scale production growth did not begin until after the discovery of the Parshall Field in 2007.”
“Since then, advances in drilling methods and technology, a better understanding of the geology of the Bakken, higher crude oil prices, and the formation’s large size and number of wells all have contributed to higher production and to the potential for continued future growth,” EIA continues.
Virtually all the increased U.S. oil production in recent years has come from fracked wells on private and state lands. It’s not just oil production that’s boomed, natural gas production has skyrocketed as well — thanks to fracking on private and state lands.
But the huge production increases have attracted the attention of environmental groups who want to see fracking banned or more heavily regulated, claiming it damages water and air quality.
Environmentalists have been especially active in Colorado, where they have tried to get local governments to ban fracking since state-level efforts to ban the drilling practice have not worked. But eco-activists suffered a huge setback earlier this month when a Colorado judge invalidated a local fracking ban passed by the city of Longmont.
Judge Dolores Mallard ruled that the local bans contradict the state’s interest in developing its natural resources and that Longmont did “not have the authority, in a matter of mixed state and local concern, to negate the authority” the state’s oil and gas commission.
Environmental groups have vowed to appeal the ruling.
“It’s tragic that the judge views the current law in Colorado as one in which fracking is more important than public health,” Kaye Fissinger, president the anti-fracking group Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “Reversing that backwards priority is a long-term battle that we’re determined to continue.”