Shale oil production in Montana

In this presentation we look at the history of shale oil production in Montana, since 2001, from in total almost 1500 horizontal wells. The data has been kindly supplied by the BOGC of Montana.

Although overall shale oil production in Montana is much lower than the other areas I have covered, the shale boom started here very early. You can see quite a ramp up in production in 2001-2005. If you look at the well quality tab, you can see that wells that started production in 2003 & 2004 have, on average, performed really well compared with later years, but also compared with other basins. Although the initial production of these wells was quite low compared with recent wells in other basins, their decline has also been quite shallow; even after 12 years, the average 2003 well still produced 30 bo/d.

From 2003 to 2009, you can see steadily declining well productivity, followed by some improvements again (I assume geology & completion related).

Montana gives us also two examples of how a major drop in oil prices  can affect the production of shale oil:

  • 2008/2009 : Just 24 new horizontal wells were started in Montana in 2009, vs 178 in 2006, which included the first peak in production. Three years of falling production (since the peak in 2006), lead to a total decline¬† of 38%, in 2009.
  • 2015/2016 : The recent downturn is even more severe than the previous one. Hardly any new wells have started production in 2015, causing a very sharp decline. Total production in March, based on preliminary numbers, is almost the same as in the previous trough of 2010/2011.

I will probably not do more separate updates on Montana, but will include the production from these wells in my regular updates on total shale oil production in the US. For simplicity, I will include this in the “Bakken” basin, even though that is not correct for some of these wells.

I will have a post on the Permian this weekend.


The above presentation has many interactive features:

  • You can click through the blocks on the top to see the slides.
  • Each slide has filters that can be set, e.g. to select individual or groups of operators. You can first click “all” to deselect all items. You have to click the “apply” button at the bottom to enforce the changes. After that, click anywhere on the presentation.
  • Tooltips are shown by just hovering the mouse over parts of the presentation.
  • You can move the map around, and zoom in/out.
  • By clicking on the legend you can highlight selected items, and include or exclude categories.
  • Note that filters have to be set for each tab separately.
  • The operator who currently owns the well is designated by “operator (current)”. The operator who operated a well in a past month is designated by “operator (actual)”. This distinction is useful when the ownership of a well changed over time.
  • If you have any questions on how to use the interactivity, or how to analyze specific questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.