The Bakken Shale: North Dakota Oil & Gas Lawsuits

What Is the Bakken Shale?

The Bakken Shale, also known as the Bakken Formation, is located in western North Dakota and is one of the most active oil fields in the U.S. At 200,000 square miles in underlying parts of North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, it is the second largest shale play. At its peak, there have been almost 200 active oil rigs pumping out over one million barrels a day on the shale. Drilling in the Bakken Shale has caused a massive economic boom to these areas, with the North Dakota portion alone producing over 800,000 barrels of oil per day for 2013. Estimates for how much oil the shale holds ranges from 7 to 24 billion barrels.

An analyst for global energy research and consultancy group Wood Mackenzie claims that oil producers could potentially gather up to 21 billion barrels of crude oil from the Williston Basic region of the north-central state. The estimate is almost three times more than the government's estimates of just 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Those estimates were released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which extended the bad news to California oil producers, which were estimated a recovery of just 600 million barrels from the Monterey Shale formation extending from Sacramento to Los Angeles.

The estimated growth in production comes as good news, as estimated costs of production continue to rise. With the release of new technology, Wood Mackenzie analysts believe North Dakota could even exceed this new estimation, digging deeper with a process called down-spacing. This process would involve wells that are dug closer together to target deeper reservoirs. So far, spending on the Bakken shale has reached $15 billion, but producers are confident in the continued provision of the shale, which has made North Dakota the second biggest oil-producing state in the nation, with Texas claiming first place.

Workers flock across North Dakota and neighboring states for the opportunity to work on an active rig. The work is challenging, and the winters can bring temperatures below zero, but wages are high. Blue collar workers can make six figures a year. Wages are high not just because the work is difficult, but because it is also one of the most dangerous professions in the country. Drilling for oil involves many separate processes and steps, and if a worker handles even a single step improperly or takes shortcuts, the results can be catastrophic.

Top Dangers on Bakken Shale Oil Rigs

Oil rigs have dangers at every turn. The top risks for rig workers include:

Bakken Shale Accidents

As production on the Bakken shale has increased, so have the number of injuries and fatalities. In 2010, there were three oil rig fatalities in the entire state. That number grew to 5 in 2011 and 14 in 2012. The 20 rig fatalities in 2013 were the most the state had ever experienced. Injuries suffered on oil rigs in 2013 were also an all-time high. The 3,200 reported injuries that year were nearly 5 times the 700 injuries reported just 4 years prior.

With over 8,000 active wells in the United States, thousands of workers face perils every day on and off the work site. Common causes of accidents on the Bakken Shale and other oilfields can involve blowouts, defective equipment, vehicle collisions, and the failure of the employer to meet safety standards. Accidents can even happen when transporting the crude by rail or another method, all of which can put workers in danger.

Injuries suffered can include:

  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Back injuries
  • Damage to feet or hands
  • Dismemberment
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Brain and spine injuries

Moreover, injuries are not limited to workers. Visitors to the job site, contractors, and even the general public can be put in danger by negligent practices and failure to meet job safety standards. As an example, last year an oil train derailed and exploded into a fire that burned for 36 hours. The accident killed 47 people, destroyed 40 buildings, and injured many others. Witnesses described the crash as a "wall of fire," and safety concerns still surround the rails used to transport oil.

Talk to Our North Dakota Shale Accident Lawyers

Workers who are injured on an oil rig should consider consulting with an experienced injury lawyer as soon as possible after being hurt. Even injuries that may seem minor at first can end up causing long-term health problems requiring tens of thousands of dollars in medical treatment. By consulting with an injury lawyer that has experience with oil rig accidents, you can be confident knowing that your legal rights are being fully protected. At Arnold & Itkin, we have won oil rig injury cases all across the country, including North Dakota. Our firm represented more crewmembers of the Deepwater Horizon than any other firm in the country. There is no oil rig accident that is too big for our skilled team of injury lawyers to litigate.

If you or someone you know was injured in a Bakken Shale or other oilfield accident by the negligence of an oil or gas company, contact Arnold & Itkin to obtain free legal representation. There is no cost to you unless we win your case.

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