May 12, 2011 8:16 PM by Jay Kohn
SIDNEY - You need go no further than the Richland County courthouse in Sidney, to see evidence that the Bakken oil play is on the move.
At the Clerk and Recorders office, landmen scour the county's records, running title on various tracts of land. It's one of the first steps toward leasing mineral rights from landowners.
Sidney Mayor Brett Smelser, who also sits on Montana's Oil and Gas Board, says the boom has already hit the Sidney and Fairview area. In fact, he says the boom has now reached a new status.
"The boom is now an industry, and we're geared up for it," Smelser said. "Serving on the Oil and Gas Board I know that a lot of leases are coming into northern Richland County and eastern Roosevelt County."
Billings geologist Carter Stewart is convinced this boom is here to stay.
"Geologists typically try to put borders on things," explained Stewart. "We've seen people try to put borders in difference areas, and those borders keep getting knocked down. We'll find the limits eventually, but we haven't found it yet."
Perhaps the best news is the opportunities the boom creates for Montana's next generation.
Russ Atkins, Area Supervisor for Continental Resources, says his industry offers a bright future for those who can qualify.
"Do you have a clean driving record, can you pass a drug test," asks Atkins. "There''s no reason you can't make $100-thousand dollars a year. Great opportunities for young people," said Atkins.
Last year the Montana Oil and Gas Board issued 329 drilling permits in the state. Officials say they're on pace to equal that or exceed it this year.
As of Thursday, ten oil rigs were drilling in Montana, while across the boarder 161 rigs were operating in North Dakota.
A recent North Dakota State study determined that each oil rig has an economic impact of $120 million a year drilling the Bakken. That figure is based on a rig drilling 10 wells a year, with as many as 60 to 80 direct jobs connected to each oil rig.
To watch our final installment in our series "The Bakken Boom", click on the video to see the full story....