This paper is a comprehensive literature survey and analysis of the Bakken Oil play, Williston Basin, which is one of the largest known oil accumulations in the world. This analysis includes; examining reservoir characterization and resource assessments, and evaluating project economics as well as current operators activities. These characteristics and assessments are then used to better understand and put context around the current drilling and completion best practices as well as water handling and operational constraints. The paper thoroughly analyzes the prolific Bakken petroleum system and describes the successful application of technologies and efficient operating practices that have enabled current Bakken production to increase to the cusp of the 500,000 BOPD mark.

The hydrocarbon charge comes from two very organic-rich shales, which have matured and expelled oil both into the fractured clastic layer that separates them and the fractured mixed clastics and carbonates that bound them above and below. Where the upper and lower Bakken shale members are both thick and mature, the middle member has high residual oil saturation and high fracture density. Although the natural fractures are well interconnected over large portions of the basin, the highest resource density occurs in areas with the highest fracture densities. Through rapid dynamic evolution and application of new horizontal drilling and multistage fracturing technologies, this prolific play has experienced a recent resurgence in activity. Today, operators are able to produce the Bakken at reported rates of up to 7,000 bopd, utilizing (typical) well designs consisting of horizontal wells with 10,000’ nominal lateral lengths, stimulated with 18–36+ fracture stimulation stages. Since 2000, Bakken activity has surged, with 1,946 horizontal wells completed between January 2000 and July 2010. Operators, from small private firms to large public multinationals, are continuing to invest heavily in the Bakken.

The continuation of this rapid pace of development has led to many challenges, including; water supply and handling challenges, increased infrastructure and human resource demands, and environmental sustainability. Nevertheless, the industry continues to rise to meet these challenges and is betting on continued Bakken success.

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