GLENBURN Discussion of oil activity in North Dakota in recent years has centered around one central buzzword "Bakken."
Of late, two new words have crept more and more often into the conversations "Three Forks." The Bakken shale formation became the "cause celebre" that thrust the state's energy development and later its entire economy into the national limelight.
Recent speculation that the underlying Three Forks-Sanish formation might in fact be an entirely new source rock holding additional scads of petroleum has sparked additional interest, since a single wellbore could be used to exploit both Bakken and Three Forks layers.
But one area largely left out of the public limelight has not been forgotten at all by the petroleum industry. The Madison aquifer consists of three distinct formations the Charles, the Mission Canyon and the Lodgepole. The upper Bakken formation is also the latest of the Madison deposits, with the lower Bakken layer lying in the Devonian-Silurian aquifer.
Madison exploitation has been a historic target for the petroleum industry, having given rise to many of the initial successes in the Tioga area in the 1950s. The first Iverson well, credited as being the state's "discovery well," was in the underlying Devonian-Silurian levels.
New activity has sprouted up in the Glenburn area, far to the east of the "hotspots" prevalent in the height of the Bakken rush.
"The exploration in the Glenburn area is horizontal Madison exploration," said Robert Harms, president of the Northern Alliance of Independent Producers in an e-mail Thursday to The Minot Daily News.
Harms said companies are going into previously exploited formations using old wellbores, but looking at new sites by using advanced oil recovery techniques like those developed to finally make the oil-rich Bakken a feasible economic producer. The industry has known about the Bakken since the 1950s it wasn't until the 21st century that technologies were developed to be able to extract the oil efficiently. Those technologies are still evolving.
Companies are on the lookout for other possible producers in addition to the Madison.
"In the process, some effort is (being put into) testing some of the shales in the area as well," Harms said.
If successful, the slow eastward march of Bakken production could be augmented by a scramble to get more easily reachable layers into heightened production modes.
In a nutshell, if the "new" Madison play proves to be viable, there very well could be yet another "oil boom," but the newer one could alter the geographic footprint of oil activity and kick even more of the regional economy into overdrive.