Bakken oil play now branded ‘mature’ as industry appetites shrink in North Dakota

A consensus is forming among North Dakota’s top oil industry operators: the formation that drove the state’s fracking boom has entered its middle age.

“The Bakken has been rebranded — whether we want it to be or not — as mature,” said Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, Monday, Feb. 14, recounting a key takeaway from conversations with some of the state’s biggest oil producers at a recent industry conference in Houston.

While many oil producers still view the Bakken as “a cash cow,” Helms said they aren’t reinvesting resources in the formation like they once did, focusing instead on Texas and New Mexico.

Among the reasons driving the Bakken’s shifting reputation, Helms cited a surge in attention among oil industry operators on their carbon footprints, as well as some concerns about the viability of industry technology that could be needed to sustain high output from North Dakota wells as they get older.