Archive for January 9th, 2013

January 9, 2013

The North Dakota Legislature and Bakken Oil


The North Dakota State Legislature is in session. I’m here in Utah, getting bits and pieces of what’s going on through the news and short interviews as I work on a Bakken Breakout article.

In some ways, it’s still odd to think I’m not a part of that scene anymore. I only covered the Legislature for two sessions, but the experience was life-changing.

During the 2007 session, I heard about the Bakken area of North Dakota for the first time. I had hydraulic fracturing explained to me, was introduced to horizontal drilling and realized there was more beneath the surface (literally) than I ever imagined. Who knew that it would spark my interest so much?

Now, as I write about the industry, my mind floats back to one particular Senate committee meeting.

I don’t even remember the bill the committee was working on, but it had to do with the Bakken area. There was standing room only. With so many bodies packed into the modest-sized room, it was unbearably hot, even near the door. I took notes while standing, shifting from one foot to another when the discomfort got to me.

Several people testified. The Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas Division brought rock samples to pass around, which helped them explain terms like porosity and permeability and cap rocks. During one of the presentations, someone held up a jar about half full of oil from a Bakken well.

“You can see this looks like honey,” he said. “This is actually oil. We call it light, sweet crude.”

It did, indeed, look like honey.

Perhaps it was being able to swirl it around in the jar or handle the rock samples. The heat and the standing drained my energy, but something about that experience filled me with anticipation. It was like getting a sneak peek at a science experiment that could save the world someday.

I don’t know if it’s really that dramatic, but the Bakken hasn’t failed to provide surprises. Science and technology developments continue there. Those oil fields provided money for the state when the rest of the nation struggled, and for those of us who simply like watching good things happen, the excitement reaffirmed our hope.

I’m glad I’m not at the Legislature this time around. There’s no way I could handle it and a toddler, too. I learned a lot during my time there, but I’ve moved on to different lessons, and they take as much energy as I can give them.

I’ll be watching, though, and I expect to see good things.

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