This paper attempts to define the probable market for Williston Basin crude oil. The total market area available to this oil is considered to lie mainly within the borders of PAW District 2. Estimates of future supply and demand in this region indicate a growing deficiency of crude oil which parallels the anticipated growth in the Williston Basin productive capacity; hence Williston production could fill the void.

The local market, embracing North Dakota and portions of Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota, is considered to be large enough and will grow sufficiently to absorb all the Williston production for the foreseeable future. The supply which will be thus replaced will be absorbed elsewhere in District 2.


The discovery or oil in the Williston Basin has aroused keen and widespread interest. This is one of the largest sedimentary basins in Continental North America and includes portions of Montana and the Dakotas in the United States as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada. Sporadic attempts to discover oil have been made since 1923: but there was not an intensive search until oil was actually found in April 1951. It is now one of the most active areas in the United States or Canada. Results have been encouraging and oil has been found in North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The search continues and must for many years in order to explore the more than one hundred million acres in this huge geological province. After studying the potentialities of the area, some geologists have estimated that more than 2 1/2 billion barrels will ultimately be discovered.

The Williston discovery raises these questions:

  • Will there be a market for Williston Basin oil? and

  • If so, how large will it be?

In this paper an attempt is made to find the answers.

Although part of the Basin extends into Canada, we are concerned here only with that portion which lies within the United States and all references in this paper are to that portion.

For the purpose of locating the Williston Basin in respect to its potential market area, frequent reference will be made to the five Petroleum Districts set up during World War II. [Figure 1]

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