An analog to existing Devonian
Western Montana Bakken in Play
A significant new Bakken Shale oil play has finally warmed up in
After a brutal winter that all but stopped move-in and exploration
activities, operators have gone back to work completing their initial
The potential play area includes Glacier, Toole, Pondera and Teton
counties in Montana and extends across the border into Canada, where the
Bakken equivalent is known as the Exshaw.
Across the state from the North Dakota-Montana Bakken play in the
Williston Basin, the new Alberta Basin exploration area is seen as an
analog to existing Devonian shale oil production.
Play depths range from 4,000 to 7,500 feet in the most active
exploration region, stretching from the western thrustbelt to the
Sweetgrass Arch on the east.
Estimates of the total resource in place vary from 10 to 15 million
barrels of oil equivalent per square mile.
Rosetta Resources Inc., Newfield Exploration Co. and Anschutz
Exploration Co. dominated early leasing, but more than a dozen smaller
U.S. independents and Canadian junior oils have taken neighboring
“Most of the activity is on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which
makes it a little bit difficult” to get information, said Tom Richmond,
division administrator for the Montana Board of Oil and Gas in
Almost all drilling so far has been vertical, light, and very tight
in terms of disclosure, Richmond noted. He said companies have six
months from completion before they must begin releasing well results.
Both Newfield and Anschutz have drilled horizontal wells on the
Montana side of the Southern Alberta Basin, Richmond said. He described
the Anschutz well as something of an offset to a much earlier discovery.
“There’s a Greenhorn Shale well that’s been producing just outside
of Glacier National Park for 35 years,” he said.“It’s our only Greenhorn
Like its eastern counterpart, the Alberta Basin Bakken has
attractive shale oil features. It also offers multiple prospective
zones, including the Nisku, Bakken-Three Forks and Lodgepole formations,
as well as other secondary targets.
Good pipeline transportation exists in the area, thanks in part to
the presence of the once prolific Cut Bank oil and gas field in addition
to Canadian production.
Operators plan to evaluate the western Bakken play based on their
vertical test or pilot programs. No meaningful production picture will
emerge until more wells have been horizontally drilled and fractured.
Rosetta Resources has a 300,000-acre lease position in northwest
Montana, where it had two rigs under contract and was completing an
11-well vertical drilling program.
At the beginning of April, the company had drilled eight vertical
delineation wells with operations under way on its ninth and tenth
vertical wells. An additional vertical well was planned for the second
quarter of 2011.
Based on encouraging results, Rosetta said it also will spud the
first of three planned horizontal wells in the second quarter.
Newfield Exploration had drilled seven vertical wells and completed
and placed on production two horizontal wells. It announced that all of
its Alberta Bakken wells to date encountered oil.
Newfield has 280,000 net acres in the play in Glacier County.
“We recently completed our second horizontal well and are preparing
to drill our eighth vertical well. We continue to test multiple
perspective horizons across our acreage,” said Lee Boothby, Newfield
“As we have said time and again, we’re executing on our assessment
plans, testing multiple formations,” he added,“and do not plan to
discuss results until we have a better understanding of our acreage and