I have not checked out the area around Watford City and I may not get down there during this short trip to the Bakken, but I did take a drive out east of Williston this afternoon with my dad. With all the activity that has occurred in this area, I expected to find the prairie covered with wells and pads. Hardly.
I almost had to laugh.
I don't think folks have any idea how much work still needs to be done. Despite an incredible amount of drilling in this area since the boom began in 2007, the area along the highway, doesn't appear a whole lot different now than it did then. Yes, one can see a lot of wells from ND Highway 1804, and a few miles farther in (both north and south, but mostly north), there are even more wells. But in the big scheme of things, I still see huge areas of open prairie, with one or two wells on a pad per section. There will eventually be upwards of 24 wells in each of these 1280-acre drilling units targeting the middle Bakken and various benches of the Three Forks.
There is so much work to be done.
Traffic? There were very few big rigs on the road east of Williston going out to Stockyard Creek oil field, but it was a solid uninterrupted line of cars and trucks going west, back into Williston, about 5:00 p.m. and almost as many cars and trucks going east out to the fields. There is clearly as much traffic now as there was during the boom, but it's a different kind of traffic. That's probably a bit of hyperbole. There's no way the traffic can be as steady/busy now as it was during the boom, but the point is this: there is still a huge amount of activity.
I am quite blown away by how busy it is. I did not expect this.
They do need to widen ND Highway 1804 west of Williston, and based on what I saw in the Watford City area last year, I assume it's just a matter of time before "1804" is widened.
My dad was amazed at how much was accomplished in the last two or three years. Most impressive was the four-lane highway from south of Watford City all the way to Williston; and, the underpass under the bypass on what used to be the west side of Williston. That bypass is now the dividing line between "old" Williston -- the Williston I grew up in -- and the "new" Williston, where a new generation of Willistonites will grow up. Most impressive, they did this straight through the winter months. Nothing seemed to stop them.
I haven't talked to enough Willistonites who have lived their whole lives here to know, but I would assume that almost everyone -- except for the investors in man-camps, motels, and restaurants -- are taking a collective sigh of relief. Finally, things apparently are slowing down at the same time the infrastructure has been put in place to make it even better than it otherwise might be.
For example, the truck traffic would be much less by now because all the stuff that was done during the "boom" was completed, and now infrastructure hauls a lot more oil and water than during the height of the boom. With all the new four-lane highways and three new huge bypasses (Watford City, Alexander, and Williston) the truck traffic is almost non-existent.
The second-to-last choke-point on US 85 will soon be history. The construction continues on the new four-lane bridge crossing the Missouri River southwest of Williston.
The last choke-point on US 85 is the Long X Bridge south of Watford City, but it's become less of a problem as the boom has died down. I don't know what the plans are for the Long X Bridge but it's much less of a concern right now.
This is the view of coming into Williston earlier this afternoon, coming down Indian Hill, and then to the Missouri River where the new bridge is being built:
By the way, did you notice all the rigs and pumpers ruining the beautiful landscape driving down into the river bottoms? There were none. There might have been a pad way off into the distance in the far upper left corner near the end of the video, but with almost 5 minutes of driving in the Bakken, not one rig or oil well. And yet, can you imagine how the landscape will be changed with they put in 1,000 wind turbines?
Note To The Granddaughters
Hunting season is underway in North Dakota: pheasants, ducks, deer, elk. Different seasons for different critters and different hunters: for example, gun vs spear vs bow and arrow.
Right now, for example, it's "deer, bow hunting" season. This means that hunters can only male deer (bucks) wearing bow ties. At least that's what they said on KFYR-radio out of Bismarck, ND.