Oil Industry Booms — in North Dakota
State Is Riding High as Firms Develop Better Ways to Tap Huge Bakken Shale Deposit, Raising Hopes for U.S. Production
KILLDEER, N.D.—A massive oil reserve buried two miles underground has put North Dakota at the center of a revolution in the U.S. oil industry, a shift that has radically altered the fortunes of this remote area.
Harold Hamm, chief of Continental Resources, one of the biggest producers at the Bakken Shale in western North Dakota. He is pictured in April at an oil rig near Watford City, N.D.
The Bakken Shale deposit has been known and even tapped on occasion for decades. But technological improvements in the past two years have taken what was once a small, marginally profitable field and turned it into one of the fastest-growing oil-producing areas in the U.S.
The Bakken Shale had helped North Dakota oil production double in the past three years, surging to 80 million barrels in 2009—tiny relative to the more than seven billion barrels consumed by the U.S. every year, but enough to vault the state past Oklahoma and Louisiana to become the country’s fourth-biggest oil producer, after Texas, Alaska and California. If current projections hold, North Dakota’s oil production could pass Alaska’s by the end of the decade.
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