Growing with the Bakken: Enerplus and the community

Drilling the Enerplus Horses well pad.
Drilling the Enerplus Horses well pad.

Enerplus is coming off a landmark 2013 in the Williston Basin. The company’s record production last year sets the stage for more growth in 2014.

Map of the proposed route for the Mandaree Bypass Road.
Map of the proposed route for the Mandaree Bypass Road.

Crude oil production from Enerplus’s North Dakota and Montana Bakken assets accounted for more than half of the oil production for the company.  Third-quarter reports reveal that these fields were producing 25,000 barrel oil equivalent (BOE) per day last fall, with over 18,000 BOE/day coming from our North Dakota play alone.

Primarily operating on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation (FBIR) in North Dakota, Enerplus has drilled 103 wells since acquiring the assets in 2010. Currently operating two rigs, the company has identified over 130 future drill sites for the development of the 86.1 million barrels (bbl) 2P reserves.

The goal for 2014 is a 33-percent increase in production in North Dakota while decreasing drilling costs, setting Enerplus up for another year of impressive production. Continued evaluation of downspacing of the Bakken and Three Forks plays and testing the lower benches of the Three Forks play will also help boost growth.

In addition to company growth, Enerplus hasn’t missed that the communities near its operations are growing, as well. As a top operator on the FBIR, the company has taken the lead on a couple initiatives focused on the population’s priority issues.

Supporting Roads and Infrastructure

A recent North Dakota Petroleum Council survey showed that in the oil-producing counties, some of North Dakotans’ primary concerns about oil and gas development are roads and infrastructure (18 percent) and traffic (16 percent). Combined, nearly 10 percent said that they’d grade the oil and gas industry poorly because they’re “growing too fast” and they “need to consider infrastructure.”

Enerplus employees serving lunch and participating at the annual Mandaree Pow Wow in 2013.
Enerplus employees serving lunch and participating at the annual Mandaree Pow Wow in 2013.

Working with two other operators (WPX and EOG), Enerplus proposed a bypass road just south of Mandaree, on the FBIR, to alleviate traffic on BIA roads 14.  This two-lane alternate route will also allow trucks to shorten their trips on the reservation.  As oilfield traffic is not allowed on BIA 12 northwest of Mandaree to the McKenzie/Dunn county line, trucks currently have to adjust their routes approximately an hour down to BIA 14.  The new bypass road will cut that time down, and allow for a much shorter trip to avoid the prohibited BIA 12.

Enerplus expects construction on the new parts of the road, and the widening of other existing segments, to begin in April 2014. Completion of the project is projected for May or June, in time for traffic to be routed around the planned paving of BIA 14. The Environmental Assessment and the Finding of No Significant Impact for the project have been completed and approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In conjunction with the new road, nearly eight miles of buried pipeline and utility lines would also be developed along the route.  Underground oil, gas, and produced water pipelines, as well as electric and fiber optic lines, will be installed at the time of construction.

Expanding Electric Power Distribution Access

Concerns about infrastructure aren’t just limited to roadways and traffic problems. The need for expanded electric power distribution is apparent to the community and the operators in the area alike. Enerplus has been a leader of the project that brings together a team of nine operators and the McKenzie Electric Cooperative to bring expanded access onto the FBIR.

The proposed project consists of 37.5 miles of 115 kV transmission lines. Three new substations will be added to the loops system that will bring power and increase the reliability of the power grid to approximately 200,000 acres of the FBIR.

This project is expected to begin this year. While the goal is to provide these services to the FBIR as soon as possible, the timeline for the project anticipates completion by 2017.

Understanding the Power of Local Initiatives

Sunset at one of Enerplus’s locations.
Sunset at one of Enerplus’s locations.

Enerplus also continues to be involved in local community programs. The company renewed its support of the New Town Volunteer Fire Department in 2014, as well as providing a contribution to the newly formed Mandaree Volunteer Fire Department.

In addition, the second year of the Adopt a Well program with the eighth-graders at Mandaree School is underway. Due to increased enthusiasm with Enerplus employees, more sections were added to the program, giving an even more in-depth look into how a well develops from planning to production.

Just as production is set to escalate in 2014, Enerplus hopes to grow its community endeavors too. With a brand-new field office opening in Sidney, Montana, the company hopes to make an impact to its neighbors across the Bakken area.

The boom across northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota will only continue to develop, impacting the communities in the middle of America’s path to energy independence. Enerplus, as an operator in the center of it all, not only sees its job to grow production, but also to grow with, and add energy for, its neighbors.

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