News Ticker

The Regional Drilling Activity in the Bakken and Three Forks Formations map, or the “Bakken map,” as it has come to be known, has proved to be a valuable resource for those with a stake in the state’s oil boom. The 2-ft × 3-ft map, which was designed and produced by the EERC with support from 22 industry sponsors, displays regional drilling activity in the Bakken and Three Forks Formations of western North Dakota. Wells are represented by dots of different colors, which signify the years in which the wells were drilled. Requests for the map have exceeded supply for both the 2011 and 2012 editions. Why are these maps so popular?

“I think people inherently like maps. Maps are a nice way for people to relate back to things they’ve seen, things they’ve experienced, and the map becomes a focal point for people to discuss items of common interest,” said EERC Associate Director for Research John Harju. “So, for anyone who has some involvement with this oil resource development in the Bakken, it’s a visually appealing and efficient means of distilling an astounding amount of information.”

The idea for the map started about a year and a half ago, according to Harju, who said that the work the EERC has conducted with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and specifically the National Energy Technology Laboratory, allowed the EERC to accumulate a great degree of knowledge regarding the Bakken System through its oil and gas programs.

“Based on the demand we had for some smaller Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership maps focused on oil fields in the Williston Basin and in conjunction with the work we’d been doing in the Bakken System,” said Harju, “we decided to approach producers and service companies who were active across the Bakken System in the Williston Basin with the idea of a sponsored map that would illustrate where activity was occurring and the magnitude of that activity.”

In addition to the oil wells drilled in the state, the first version of the map in 2011 highlighted what Harju called “notable wells”: wells that were really successful, those that had large numbers of completion stages, or those that were very historic or prolific in terms of production. The map included the Bakken “discovery well”—the well drilled on land owned by a farmer named Henry Bakken in 1951 that tapped into oil and was part of the first oil boom in western North Dakota.

The map was revised in 2012 to include wells beyond western North Dakota into the neighboring areas of Canada and added a stratigraphic column of the Williston Basin in general and a more specific breakout of the Bakken System. Two other key modifications to the new map are the addition of all gas-processing plants in the state and an annotated graph of historical oil production for the state of North Dakota. The annotations call out notable points in time and their incumbent influence on production, and the graph illustrates the remarkable increase in production in the region as a result of the Bakken oil play.

Well data for both maps were obtained from the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Department of Mineral Resources and the respective state and provincial oil and gas resource offices for Montana and Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada.

The 5000 maps printed for the 2011 edition were sent to all attendees of the Williston Basin Petroleum Conferences (WBPCs) for 2010 and 2011, all members of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, map sponsors, state legislators, and local governmental officials. Inquiries from people who had seen the map soon flooded the EERC. The 2012 printing was increased to 7500 and again sent to all attendees of the growing WBPC and other former recipients. Although 50% more maps were printed for 2012, it was still not enough to meet demand, and an additional 2000 were ordered.

In addition to its value as an informative resource, Harju said the map has also been a great way to showcase the logos of some of the companies that have sponsored this effort and, in many cases, other EERC research.

“Some of our sponsors have had the map matted and framed and proudly feature it up on their walls,” said Harju. “It is a very rewarding experience when I walk into a client’s office and see that.”

For more information on obtaining a copy of the map, go to