Research Studies

  • Bakken Water Opportunities Assessment – Phase 1 (PDF)
    The Energy & Environmental Research Center Northern Great Plains Water Consortium identified a potential opportunity to economically treat and reuse water that is used in hydraulic fracturing operations in the Bakken oil formation in North Dakota. The Bakken Water Opportunities Assessment project was undertaken with funding provided by the North Dakota Industrial Commission Oil and Gas Research Council, the North Dakota Petroleum Council, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The project compiled information on the current water use practices for hydraulic fracturing in the Bakken play, collected and analyzed hydraulic fracturing flowback water data from five different oil producers operating at various locations in the Bakken, assessed potentially applicable mobile fracture water-recycling technologies, worked with industry to disseminate information about the project, and developed recommendations and plans for a Phase 2 evaluation.

  • Bakken Water Opportunities Assessment – Phase 2 (PPTX)
    An evaluation of a membrane technology for the treatment of abundant supplies of nonpotable groundwater has been proposed as a Phase 2 Bakken Water Opportunities Assessment project. The Energy & Environmental Research Center is teaming with an oil industry partner to investigate the treatment of moderately saline groundwater from the Dakota Formation with pretreatment and Reverse Osmosis technology. The proposed pilot-scale demonstration will treat up to 215 gpm of groundwater to produce approximately 160 gpm of permeate, assuming an estimated 75% recovery rate.

  • Evaluation of Key Factors Affecting Successful Oil Production in the Bakken Formation, North Dakota – Phase 1 (PDF)
    The Bakken Formation oil play is still in the early stages of development at a time when data collection, investigations, and research are vital to improving and optimizing the ultimate production from the resource. As a play that is limited by low permeability and fracture porosity, greater understanding of formation parameters is critical to improving production. The Energy & Environmental Research Center has conducted a multidisciplinary research program to identify key attributes of successful Bakken wells and provide technically based guidance to stakeholders regarding future exploitation efforts. Preliminary conclusions derived from the research activities conducted include the following:
    1. Horizontal drilling of the middle member of the Bakken coupled with multistage fracturing has outperformed all previously completed Bakken wells in North Dakota.
    2. Geologic influences appear to be dictating the hydrocarbon production rates for given areas within North Dakota that have similar completion practices.
    3. Production in Mountrail County greatly exceeds production in Dunn County and has significantly higher variability, with the higher production appearing to be linked to greater total organic carbon and shale thicknesses which, in turn, have the potential to create greater pore pressure-related fracturing.
    4. The presence of structural elements is consistent with areas of higher production.
    5. Multistage hydraulic fracturing appears to be outperforming fewer-stage hydraulic fracturing when compared in proximity.
    6. Multilateral wells do not appear to gain significant production advantage over single lateral wells, despite lower per-foot drilling costs.

  • Evaluation of Key Factors Affecting Successful Oil Production in the Bakken Formation, North Dakota – Phase 2 (PDF)
    The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is continuing a second phase of Bakken research as part of the ongoing EERC–U.S. Department of Energy Joint Program on Research and Development for Fossil Energy-Related Resources Cooperative Agreement (Subtask 1.7). The first activity is the development of the Bakken decision support system, which is a geographic information system Web-based analytical tool that includes a database of well file information. The second activity includes geomechanical data sets to examine how macroscale stress and strain forces can affect the geomechanical properties of Bakken rocks and capitalize on the analytical methods developed under Phase 1. The third activity continues geochemical evaluations of Bakken samples to evaluate potential relationships between geochemical and petrological properties of the Bakken and oil productivity. The fourth activity establishes an industry advisory board for the project and will include three meetings of the research team and industry advisory board to ensure the needs of stakeholders are being met. It is anticipated that the activities proposed by the EERC herein will be coordinated with complementary, but separate, ongoing research efforts being conducted by the North Dakota Geological Survey and a consortium of petroleum production and service companies. Taken as a whole, it is anticipated that the results of all of these research efforts will provide stakeholders with a clearer understanding of how to efficiently maximize the exploitation of the vast Bakken resources in the Williston Basin.

  • Investigation of Improved Conductivity and Proppant Applications in the Bakken Formation (PDF)
    The Bakken Formation in North Dakota is a significant portion of the largest contiguous oil reserve ever discovered in the lower 48 states. The U.S. Geological Survey’s original study of the Bakken Formation found 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Montana and North Dakota portion of the Williston Basin. According to federal testimony provided by the director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, “Hydraulic fracturing is a critical component of developing the Bakken Formation, indeed every shale play throughout the U.S. and Canada. Without hydraulic fracturing, under regulation of the states, this resource could not be produced.” Hydraulic fracturing is the process of improving the ability of oil to flow through a rock formation by creating fractures. The process includes pumping a mixture of water and additives that include various sizes of sand or ceramic particles called proppants that are designed to "prop" the fractures open, creating greater conductivity of fluids to the wellbore. The proposed research seeks an improved understanding of proppant performance in the Bakken Formation.

  • Exploration and Production Focus, Winter 2011, National Energy Technology Laboratory (PDF)
    The Oil and Natural Gas Program of the National Energy Technology Laboratory highlights ongoing research programs in the Exploration and Production Focus newsletter.

  • End-Use Technology Study - An Assessment of Alternative Uses for Associated Gas (PDF)
    The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), in partnership with the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) Oil and Gas Research Council (OGRC), Continental Resources, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), has conducted a study focused on assessing the viability of technologies that could increase utilization of associated gas in North Dakota. The intent of this study was to examine technologies that can utilize the associated gas at locations upstream of traditional natural gas-processing plants, thereby extracting value from a currently uncaptured resource. Economic analysis of these technologies consisted of comparing capital expenses to potential revenue generation in an effort to frame the potential for more detailed economic study specific to individual technology. Technologies evaluated included 1) natural gas liquid (NGL) recovery, 2) compressed natural gas (CNG) for vehicle fuel, 3) electrical power generation, and 4) chemical production.

  • Demonstration of Gas-Powered Drilling Operations for Economically Challenged Wellhead Gas and Evaluation of Complementary Platforms (PDF)
    The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) in partnership with the North Dakota Industrial Commission Oil (NDIC) and Gas Research Council; Continental Resources, Inc.; the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory; ECOAlternative Fuel Systems; Altronic; and Butler Caterpillar conducted a project to demonstrate and evaluate utilization of wellhead gas for fueling diesel engines used to power a drilling rig in North Dakota. This evaluation consisted of two phases. Preliminary testing was conducted at the EERC using a leased Caterpillar engine and a mixture of diesel and simulated wellhead gas in a dual-fuel application. Results from these tests were reported previously and have been included as an appendix to this report. Phase II of the project consisted of field-testing engines using a mixture of diesel and wellhead gas on a drilling rig during the drilling of two wells. This report summarizes the results of the demonstration project, including an assessment of engine performance, diesel fuel savings, and the impact on engine emissions.

Downloadable Resources
Obtain data regarding well locations, completion information, and production provided in convienent formats for conducting efficient analysis.
Decision Support
Decision Support provides oil production and geologic data for the North Dakota portion of the Williston Basin. Explore production relative to geologic properties of the Bakken and Three Forks formations.