Oil top N.D. story of 2008It was the year of the Bakken. A government study released in April estimated up to 4.3 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the shale formation in North Dakota and Montana using current technology. Companies targeted the shale horizontally and use pressurized fluid and sand to break pores in the rock and prop them open to recover the oil.
By: By James MacPherson, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — It was the year of the Bakken.
A government study released in April estimated up to 4.3 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the shale formation in North Dakota and Montana using current technology. Companies targeted the shale horizontally and use pressurized fluid and sand to break pores in the rock and prop them open to recover the oil.
As oil prices soared, the Bakken became a hotbed of activity, bringing rigs and workers to North Dakota and propelling the state into the No. 5 spot among oil producing states. But the year ended with uncertainty after the price of oil plummeted $100 a barrel. Officials said drilling in the state could be cut by a third next year.
“I think this year could be best described as a roller coaster year for the oil industry,” said Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources. “The oil industry directly impacts every citizen in North Dakota and that’s why it is so significant.”
Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, called the Bakken a “positive news story that has brought worldwide exposure to North Dakota.”
“The Bakken has the potential to be a game-changer for North Dakota,” Ness said. “The biggest problem with the Bakken right now is the price of oil.”
The story of oil and the Bakken was voted the top story of 2008 by print and broadcast members of The Associated Press.
Ranked second on the state’s Top 10 list was the story of nuclear missteps. Minot Air Force Base’s 5th Bomb Wing was recertified in the handling of nuclear weapons after months of retraining in the wake of a 2007 mix-up in which a bomber mistakenly flew to Louisiana armed with nuclear missiles. The Air Force also said three ballistic missile crew members in North Dakota fell asleep while holding classified launch code devices, and a vehicle carrying a rocket booster for an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile tipped over. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in visit to the base, said such lapses are unacceptable.
North Dakota politics ranked third on the state’s top 10 list. Gov. John Hoeven became the first North Dakota governor in history to be elected to three four-year terms. Incumbents were re-elected to most state offices and the Legislature. Fargo Rep. Rick Berg stepped down as state GOP House majority leader.
Ranked No. 4 on the list was the story of troubles at the state workers compensation agency. Former Workforce Safety and Insurance director Sandy Blunt was convicted in December on a felony charge involving state money misspent on gifts, meals and trinkets and sick leave for a healthy administrator.
The fifth-ranked story was the November vote on statewide ballot measures. North Dakota voters agreed to use money from a tobacco lawsuit on anti-smoking programs and change the way the state manages its workers compensation agency. Two other ballot measures that would affect state tax collections were soundly defeated.
Rounding out the top 10:
No. 6.— Crop Value: Crop prices tumbled in 2008 after record highs last year. The average value of farm real estate in North Dakota set a record for the fourth straight year, driven primarily by high commodity prices that fueled a demand for land.
No. 7 — State budget: Gov. John Hoeven proposed a $7.7 billion budget, offering income and property tax cuts and avoiding debt, possibly leaving a $1.2 billion budget surplus intact.
No. 8 (Tie) — Sister Slaying: On the day his trial is to start, Sergei Carlson pleads guilty to charges of murder and a deviate sexual act in the death of his 16-year-old sister, Whitney, of Fargo. The teenager is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
— Wells County Slayings: Aron Nichols and his fiancee, Tamara Sorenson, are sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of Donald and Alice Willey, whose bodies were found in their burned home near Sykeston.
No. 10. (3-way tie) — State Mill: North Dakota’s state Mill and Elevator’s financial difficulties, including a $12 million loss during July, August and September. The state Industrial Commission extends, and later withdraws, permission for the mill to buy wheat from Canada for the first time in its history.
— NAWS Treatment: The federal government is recommending a $17.5 million water treatment plan for a project to move Missouri River water to northwestern North Dakota — costlier than state officials preferred but much cheaper than what Canada wanted.
— Medal of Honor: Woodrow Wilson Keeble is awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroism during the Korean War as well as the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, North Dakota’s highest honor.