Montana News

Feb 8, 2012 5:28 PM by Kay Rossi

North central Montana ready for possible oil boom

The oil boom may not be just an eastern Montana phenomenon; increasingly, oil companies are grabbing prime property in the north central part of the state for potential drilling.

With some of the exploration and leasing already in the works throughout the Rocky Mountain Front and outlying areas, there seems to be a growing anticipation of what's to come.

Business is good in Toole County for oil and gas attorney Don Lee; he said, "There are numerous companies that are just in the preliminary stages of gearing up for drilling operations."

As a result, Lee has seen a significant increase in mineral owners seeking legal advice over land leases for oil.

But Toole County isn't the only place seeing leasing; a growing number of mineral and surface owners are being approached for leases in Teton County as well.

Teton County extension agent Mark Major said, "The interest right now in my mind is locking up the land. The interest isn't so much we're hauling out the drilling rig to start drilling today."

Leasing doesn't guarantee drilling, however. Dave Galt of the MT Petroleum Association noted, "Just because something leased, doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have a well drilled on it."

But in Glacier County, it was the first sign of oil activity.

Glacier County Commissioner Michael DesRosier noted, "It just got busier and busier. That was the first indication that we had."

In the last year, Desrosier says there have been eight to 12 wells drilled in the county.

In Choteau, drilling is also picking up with four exploratory wells already up and running and several more in the works.

Harold Yeager of MT Overthrust Management said, "They're hoping to find good areas to go ahead and go forth and do horizontal drilling."

Yeager estimates $20-million dollars is already coming into Teton County from drilling, leasing, and seismographic research, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Whether oil activity will boom in north central Montana could depend on many variables.

The area does have a feature similar to eastern Montana's Bakken formation.

Tom Richmond, an administrator of the MT Board of Oil and Gas, said, "There is another Bakken, that was laid down at the same time in another feature and that is commonly called the Alberta Bakken."

Whatever lies beneath the surface, we do know it's a much different makeup then the main Bakken; Richmond said that it is substantially thinner and a bit more shallow.

But that doesn't shed much light on how much oil is in the formation and if it's economically viable to extract it.