Bakken Oil Field

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Summary Information

  • Operator:
  • Country: USA
  • Location: The Williston Basin is in the north central United States, underlying much of North Dakota, eastern Montana, northwestern South Dakota, and southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada
  • Production start:
  • Partners:
  • Type: Oil
  • Estimated Reserves: For continuous oil resources, the USGS estimated a total mean resource of 3.65 billion barrels of oil
  • Production Volume:


  • The Upper Devonian–Lower Mississippian Bakken Formation is a thin but widespread unit within the central and deeper portions of the Williston Basin in Montana, North Dakota, and the Canadian Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
  • The formation consists of three members:
    • (1) lower shale member,
    • (2) middle sandstone member, and
    • (3) upper shale member.
  • Each succeeding member is of greater geographic extent than the underlying member. Both the upper and lower shale members are organic-rich marine shale of fairly consistent lithology; they are the petroleum source rocks and part of the continuous reservoir for hydrocarbons produced from the Bakken Formation.
  • The middle sandstone member varies in thickness, lithology, and petrophysical properties, and local development of matrix porosity enhances oil production in both continuous and conventional Bakken reservoirs.
  • Within the Bakken-Lodgepole TPS, the upper and lower shale members of the Bakken Formation are also the source for oil produced from reservoirs of the Mississippian Lodgepole Formation.

Companies active in the Bakken

  • Hess


  • The Bakken Formation was formally described (named) by geologist J.W. Nordquist in 1953. His samples came from the Amerada Petroleum - H.O. Bakken #1 well on the Nesson Anticline in Williams County, North Dakota. Henry Bakken was the surface owner where the well was drilled


  • The Bakken Formation can be encountered throughout the Williston Basin. It is 11,000 feet deep in the depocenter (see Glossary) of the basin in the southwest corner of North Dakota. The depth of the Bakken rises to 4,500 feet deep on the eastern edge of the basin, and up to 3,100 feet deep (950 meters) on the northern edge, across the Canadian border in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.


  1. Shale Shock! Could There Be Billions in the Bakken? EIA
  2. Assessment of Undiscovered Oil Resources in the Devonian-Mississippian Bakken Formation
  3. 3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of Technically Recoverable Oil Assessed in North Dakota and Montana’s Bakken Formation
  4. Hess Acquires Additional Bakken Acreage
  5. Service Begins at Rangeland Energy's Crude Oil Loading Terminal in North Dakota's Bakken Shale

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