North Dakota’s Oil Boom Shows Up In Satellite Image

The lights of the Bakken:

From the Daily Mail:

Ken Paulman when examining places of light from a satellite image noticed another massive ‘city’ to the west that he couldn’t identify, brightly lit as the camera passed over. As editor of Midwest Energy News and a self-proclaimed geography buff, he used the surrounding cities to figure out what the large patch of light was.

The “Mystery city”: To the west of Bismarck, North Dakota which appears as a massive patch of light has been identified as the Bakken Oil Field. The Bakken is reportedly one of the largest oil fields in the world, covering about 200,000 square miles in North Dakota, Montana and Canada.

The huge amount of light given off in the area may be due to natural gas flares, flaming discharges used at oil fields to keep equipment from being over pressured.

It’s fitting that the productivity and prosperity the oil boom has brought to western North Dakota would be measured as light on a map.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Caeslinger

    What I was surprised by this was how far north, to Crosby, Columbus area just south of Estevan, it stretched.  And by how little activity around Dickinson, really, there was … 

    • Rob

      I wasn’t surprised but only because I’d seen a map a while ago which showed the extent of the Bakken formation.  It extends well up into Canada, and down south to the SD border.

      From what the oil egg heads tell me, the boom is spreading because mos of the prime locations in the middle of the formation have been drilled so now they’re branching out into the more marginal areas.

      • Caeslinger

        That’s actually the great thing in my mind, how its reaching out.  In theory, should provide more long-lasting benefits and more sustainable growth.  Now to get other industries surrounding it somehow, to keep it going.

        • Rob

          That was actually an argument those of us who supported lowering, and simplifying, the oil extraction tax made.  Removing some of the compliance costs associated with that tax, and the tax rate itself, would allow exploration into the more marginal areas of the oil play thus decentralizing it (for lack of a better term) and spreading out the impact.

          • Caeslinger

            That was an argument and one I definitely agreed with.  And yes, I’m all for simplifying the tax code concerning oil in the state and protecting ourselves with regard to our rate vs rates with neighboring states.

            However, I think a new rate could have been extended in specific counties for x number of years to accomplish the same thing, and the again, the argument that once they leave, we’ll never get them back is hard to back up given the current economic activity.  

            If they are drilling in ND over Texas, it’s because it’s profitable and they have lease rights to do so.  It has nothing directly to do with the weather or the infrastructure – those are all factors in how much drilling they will do.  I’m actually more worried at this point, that there will become a glut of oil again and that would drive the price down and stop the boom, not that companies will move to Montana or Texas or Oklahoma for an extra couple percent.

  • Demosthenes

    Old news and an old photo.

    • DaveH63

      have a happy thanksgiving. Do you spread joy everywhere?

      • Demosthenes

        “Do you spread joy everywhere?”

        Wrong Holiday, DaveH63.

        It is just an old photo and news, if this comment makes you glum I will note that I did not take your feelings into concern when I hit the ‘Post” button. If you think I should have, then we can discuss. Why should I care how you feel?

        • 914

          Its an awesome photo for starters. And if its old news you could have avoided commenting. 

          • NaCaWo

            You’re just wrong. It’s not an old photo, it’s not an old story. Read the linked-to story (posted Nov. 16) and one learns that the photo comes from a series taken between August and October. The photos and video in the Daily Mail piece are awe-inspiring, and I appreciated the post for bringing them to my attention. 


          • Rob

            Glad I’m not the only one it was news to.


          • geoff


            I think you should be careful in your posts.  If Obama catches wind of the Natural Gas flares, he may step up his efforts to shut down the Bakken.  You do know that a byproduct of combustion produces carbon dioxide and we don’t need the green freaks to conduct a study stating that the Bakken has warmed our planet by 20 degrees and the polar bears and baby seals will die.

            Just saying!!!

        • DaveH63

          I certainly don’t need or want you to be responsible for my happiness.  Quite happy without you and I am a big believer in the theory that if you are not happy then change your life.  No time for whining.  However,  I also believe if you can’t say anything positive then don’t say anything at all.  I believe your post is in that category.  Spreading Joy is contagious.

          • flamemeister

            Liberals are generally unhappy except when they share their depressing condition.

          • Camsaure

            Thats what liberalism is equal sharing of misery.

          • VocalYokel

            My Maternal Grandmother was a Democrat, (she was from the boot heel of Missourah and said it had to do with Abe Lincoln) and the only time she was happy was when she was unhappy.

          • flamemeister

            All the liberals I have known personally—and I have known many— were depressed, angry, neurotically preoccupied with themselves, hysterical, or some combination.

    • Rob

      Maybe, but it was new to me.

  • DopeyDem

    Thanks to the environmentalists for providing all the solar and wind power to generate all the lights. Without them it would be total darkness.

  • DaveH63

    It is called progress.   Love it when man changes the environment for the better.

    • John Wayne, American

      unless you are unto astronomy, western ND used to have some real nice dark skies,  as the oil development expands, those dark, dark skies and horizons will be lost.  

      Ask any deer hunter that has been out in the grasslands, after dark, away from the camp fire, no moon, the sky is just unbelievably brilliant with billions of stars banded across the heavens. they will remember it.

      I guess I’ll just have to take my telescope to North Korea, they have no lights.

      • Caeslinger

        Oh please, its not like in twenty years it won’t be back to that.  We all know the oil boom, at least with respect to the sheer number of rigs and other activity surrounding it, will only last a certain amount of time.

      • NNccWW

        For good skies, I recommend Nevada high desert. Very good. Eastern Montana still looks good, and northeastern South Dakota.

        I live in D.C. Always happy to see Venus, maybe Orion, but it’s definitely an aesthetic downside to living in the city.

        And we don’t hunt for deer around here. We just run them down during rutting season.

      • IndyMason

        See ya

  • $8194357

    And it is only going to grow in size and scope. People, traffic and who knows what else?

  • Jimmypop

    its sad we have to burn all that gas off….our utility rates for natural gas should be nothing.

    • tony_o2

      It does seem like a waste.  But good luck getting approval to build pipelines to each well.  Maybe they could harness that energy with mini power plants, but I’m sure that would involve just as many regulatory hurdles. 

  • Cherz1967

    This map is wrong and that’s not the Bakken.

  • Camsaure

    Just returned from some work out there on pipelines. I have to admit, it has changed a bit since I was there last about 4 years ago. I had been in Minot for the flood fight and again the aftermath,  witnessed the devastation. In my opinion Minot will rebound greatly and easily surpass Grand Forks in population and productivity.

  • Galen Stangeland

    All that and we are still knee toeing to the middle east?

  • Galen Stangeland

    We better tap that ass before the kanooks suck it out from under us!

  • I H8 GOPers

    You know all that light is from wasting natural gas and causing pollution through flaring, right? That’s not an aspect to celebrate.

    • AL Marquardt

      Natural gas actually burns very clean, so there’s little byproduct released into the skies. It’s also short term, because they are currently looking at ways to harvest the gas for consumption. If they don’t the wells would explode, and you certainly don’t want to release the gas into the air without burning it off first.

  • Curt

    This photo is not real………….no way that rig lights and flares would illuminate like that.  Contrived and fake…………….I believe!

    • Mike

      I live in Bismarck ND. Have seen local photos from airplanes like this too. This photo is not fake. since this picture the bakken is even larger now.,