Helms option 2

Lynn Helms with a well pad in the background talks about production expectations for the West in 2021.

Among proposals seeking North Dakota’s remaining CARES Act money is one that would put at least two Williams County oilfield companies back to work during the pandemic.

North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms talked about the proposal, which he submitted on behalf of the Bakken Restart Taskforce, during the Western Dakota Energy Conference on Thursday, Oct. 8.

The Emergency Commission will meet Oct. 23 to review proposals for CARES Act money, and decide which are being funded.

Helms said he anticipates having about $16.9 million left from the $60 million or so in CARES Act money that had been allocated to plug and reclaim orphan wells which he will not be able to spend by the Dec. 30 deadline.

The proposal suggests repurposing that funding to acquire water and reimburse water disposal costs related to completion of up to 80 drilled but uncompleted wells before year-end.

“We have been seeing about 30 completions a month,” Helms said. “If we can add 80 to that between now and the end of the year, we can stabilize the production curve at that 1.2 million number,” Helms said.

Otherwise, the state’s production is likely to quickly fall below a million barrels per day, given Bakken type curves, which will have a further negative impact on the state’s budget.

The proposal would put around 500 to 1,000 people to work in the short-term. It would also create 100 to 200 longer term production jobs.

Large, publicly traded entities won’t likely be able to pivot quickly enough to take advantage of this aid, Helms said, but he has interest already for about 50 wells by three smaller operations.

“One even said I will bring my crews back from Montana and go after Williams County,” Helms said. “It’s not a huge number but that is the kind of thing you can do if you are business friendly.”

The other company Helms mentioned is in Mountrail.

The Bakken Restart Taskforce was formed by Gov. Doug Burgum to look at ways to keep the oil industry going during the pandemic. The sector has lost around 11,000 jobs.

Helms said the effort to plug and reclaim orphaned wells continues to go well and appears to be on schedule to plug 380 orphaned wells and reclaim 186 of the orphaned well sites before year-end.

The rest of the sites will still be reclaimed, Helms added, but not until next year, with money from the state’s fund for the reclamation of abandoned mining sites.

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