Bakken & Three Forks Well Spuds Set Record in the Williston Basin

Williston Basin Well Spuds Q3 2013
Williston Basin Well Spuds Q3 2013

Bakken and Three Forks well spuds hit a new high in the third quarter. Baker Hughes reported 747 well starts in the Williston Basin over the past three months.

The Williston Basin accounted for 747 or more than 8% of the 9,175 wells that were spud in the U.S. in the third quarter. The number of wells spud beats the previous record of 693 set in the second quarter and is almost 50% higher than the number of wells started in the first quarter of 2012.

That's right. The number of wells started per quarter is up almost 50% over the past 18 months, while the rig count has fallen a little more than 10%. An average of 206 rigs were working in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 183 in the third quarter of 2013. Experience and pad drilling continue to drive development times down.

The average rig working in the basin drilled 4.08 wells during the quarter or spent a little more than 22 days from spud to spud. That's up from 2.46 wells per rig or more than 36 days from spud to spud in the first quarter of 2012

Not every well in the basin targets the Bakken and Three Forks, but we estimate the plays account for more than 95% of the activity in the Williston Basin.

Bakken Shale Rig Count Holds At 188 Rigs - June 21, 2013

North Dakota Bakken Three Forks Map
North Dakota Bakken Three Forks Map

The Bakken Shale drilling rig count has been unchanged at 188 rigs running over the past three weeks. North Dakota accounts for 178 rigs and Montana accounts for 10. That's right in line with the number of rigs Baker Hughes has reported working in the Bakken region for the first six months of the year.

The U.S. rig count fell twelve rigs to 1,759 rigs running, of which 190 are running in the Williston Basin. A total of 349 rigs are targeting natural gas and 1,405 are targeting oil in the U.S.. The remainder are drilling service wells (e.g. disposal wells, injection wells, etc.).

The biggest news of the week was updated April production numbers from the NDIC. North Dakota is on pace to hit 850,000 b/d of oil production by year-end. If oil prices and weather stay friendly, the Williston Basin might surpass 1 million b/d sometime in the second half of 2014.

Note: The NDIC reports 187 rigs are active in North Dakota. That is nine more than Baker Hughes reports. The difference is likely accounted for in the number of rigs actually working. On any given week, a certain number of rigs are in route to the next well location or idle waiting to drill the next well. Those rigs are not counted in the Baker Hughes census.

Bakken Oil & Gas Rigs

The natural gas rig count in the region held flat at 1 rig running. It's not a Bakken well and it's not a normal occurrence in the region, so don't expect much more than zero in the future. Natural gas rallied up $0.10-0.20 on the week, but ended the week back down near $3.79/mmbtu on Friday afternoon.

The number of oil rigs running held flat at 187 in the region. WTI futures fell with the broader markets during the week and ended near $94/bbl on Friday. Williston Basin sweet crude traded at $81.44/bbl on June 21st.

McKenzie County led development with 67 rigs running. Dunn, Mountrail, and Williams counties are the only other counties with more than 25 rigs running. View the full list below.

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Bakken Drilling by County


What is the Rig Count?

The Bakken Shale Rig Count is an index of the total number of oil & gas drilling rigs running across Montana and North Dakota. The rigs referred to in this article are for ALL drilling reported by Baker Hughes and not solely wells targeting the Bakken formation. All land rigs and onshore rig data shown here are based upon industry estimates provided by the Baker Hughes Rig Count and/or Smith Service Co's (Schlumberger) Smith Rig Count.