North Dakota Fracking Creates a Construction Boom

The sleepy little town of Williston, in the Northwest corner of North Dakota has become a boom-town. No longer is this community a center for the local farmers, it’s become overrun by the newest mining rush in the country. As oil companies rush to get in on the fracking boom, this community is struggling to keep up with the needs. Thousands of new workers have flooded the area, needing housing, meals, services and someplace to spend their hard-earned money.
Fracking is a relatively new development in oil exploration and production, useful for extracting oil from much deeper than conventional drilling methods allow. In fracking, salt water mixed with chemicals and sand is pumped into the ground, causing fractures that allow the oil to come closer to the surface where it can be pumped out. Many times, the overburden causes the oil to be at such high pressure, that no pumping is required.

While controversial, fracking has opened the way to recover oil in North Dakota from the Bakken formation; an oil-bearing shale formation, two miles below the surface. There are currently 150 oil companies working in the region, producing 660,000 barrels of petroleum per day.

All of this work and the massive influx of workers needed to accomplish it has created incredible stress on the local economy and infrastructure. At the start of the boom, workers were sleeping in their trucks, because there was literally no room at the inn. While there is still much to do, construction workers have done much to alleviate the crowding, building temporary dwellings, businesses, infrastructure and even expanding the local school.

The community of Williston is struggling to keep up with the needs and the growth. When the town was built, nobody expected its population to triple in such a short time. Trucks rumbling up and down Main Street all day, every day show how much this town has grown. The two-lane road, along with everything else, needs to grow to meet the needs of the oil fields.

While oil production is temporary, it appears that the boom from this oil rush will last about 25 years. That’s too long to just put in temporary services, so the local economy is reacting, building apartment buildings, increasing the size of stores and opening new businesses as fast as construction crews can work. The town is growing rapidly, and nobody knows where it will end.

One of the struggles facing construction companies and developers is deciding how to build. In the world of construction, 25 years is a fairly short lifespan for any building. Yet, once the boom is over, this North Dakota community will probably go back to being a sleepy farm community. Building structures that are intended to last, will only ensure a lot of empty buildings, when the influx of workers moves on to someplace else.

Regardless of what ultimately happens, the oil boom has done wonders for North Dakota’s economy and unemployment rate. Tax money gleaned from this boom has brought the state out of debt. Legislation has been presented to share a larger percentage of that money with the local communities affected by the boom, allowing them to increase their infrastructure. So, over the long-haul, this is going to be good for the communities in Northwest North Dakota.

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