Is the Dakota Access Pipeline Already Obsolete? The Collapse of the Bakken Oil Fields | KCET
Is the Dakota Access Pipeline Already Obsolete? The Collapse of the Bakken Oil Fields
Few environmental issues in recent memory have been as explosive and controversial as the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). In the fall of 2016, the project made international news, as protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe erupted in North Dakota,. The pipeline’s construction routes underneath Lake Oahe, a major source of water, and through a sacred burial ground. As activists traveled to the site throughout much of the year, battles waged both on the ground and in the courts with opponents demanding that the project be halted, citing environmental and tribal concerns. In November of 2016, President Obama announced his Administration would look at possibly re-routing the pipeline. But in one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump signed an executive order green-lighting the project.
Throughout all of the dramatic political machinations in Washington and the police violence at the site of the protests, energy analysts have been quietly announcing an incontrovertible fact: production at the Bakken oilfields, the source of oil for DAPL, is in a steep, likely irreversible decline.
In March of 2017, energy expert Art Berman didn’t sugarcoat his assessment of where Bakken shale is headed. Writing in Forbes in March, Berman stated:
According to Berman, despite a recent, short-lived increase in production, well-levels at Bakken (the amount of oil available to extract from the specific area) are in decline, dropping over 33 percent in production between 2012 and 2015. In addition to well levels, Berman attributes the shift at Bakken to the fact that the reservoir is dropping in pressure. As the pressure drops, the cost to extract goes up, leading to a higher cost per barrel of oil. Over time, extraction makes less and less financial sense for companies doing the work, as energy costs to extract the oil spiral up.
Berman might be on to something, as the numbers from the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) mirror his predictions. The NDIC, which regulates the state’s oil and gas production, posts historical statistics from the Bakken shale play, a month-by-month accounting going back to 1953. Over the course of the last few years, the “daily oil per well” numbers are clearly declining, even as the number of wells rises in number.
To be sure, there are a lot of esoteric, highly technical considerations when assessing oil production, including price fluctuations, OPEC policy and unseen international events. But the stark numbers from such a staid source as the NDIC seem to confirm Berman’s suspicions about Bakken shale.
Dakota Access Pipeline Maps
In fact, it appears the production of sweet crude oil (the low-sulfur version coveted for gasoline production), is in decline across the entire state of North Dakota. S&P Global, a think-tank focusing on international commodities, quoted the director of NDIC Lynn Helms, confirming the drop in production:
What does this mean for Standing Rock and the inevitable protests that are sure to continue if construction of the pipeline resumes? The answer is unclear. In an age where the influence of data, science and reason all seem to be in the same decline as sweet crude, activists and experts face a new, dangerous foe: a public highly skeptical of basic facts. But, as the cliché goes, the numbers don’t lie. Oil, as an energy source, is in decline. For protestors under assault while defending sacred, live-giving land, it’s a small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless.
RELATED EXHIBIT: To learn more, visit Standing Rock: Art and Solidarity, on view beginning May 20, 2017 at the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park. Poster art, T-shirts, and photographs demonstrate the immediacy of the protests and conflicts as they have unfolded, while a video art piece by the Native collaborators of Winter Count and a historical tour explore the broader meanings of these events.
Troubling History Repeating? Art Examines Parallels Between Japanese American Internment and Today’s Migrants
Two new exhibitions explore the connection between World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans and the United States government’s more recent immigration and travel policies.
A Story of Friendship and Second Chances in 'Standing Up, Falling Down,' Starring Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal at the KCET Cinema Series
KCET Cinema Series host Pete Hammond moderated a Q&A session with director Matt Ratner, and producers Chris Mangano and John Hermann.
A Q&A will immediately follow with star Annette Bening.
Barbara Kruger unveils her latest additions to her ongoing series, “Untitled (Questions),” as part of Frieze Week Los Angeles. The unmistakable ad-like artworks boldly ask, “Who buys low? Who sells high?” among other questions.
- 1 of 237
- next ›
The global demand for oil and gas has long-lasting impacts on the communities that supply it.
The global demand for avocados is having a devastating impact on a drought-stricken community in Chile.
Following groups like “Guardians of the Forest,” we explore illegal lumber poaching in the forests of Brazil and Oregon, where citizens and scientists are working together to combat the illegal lumber trade.
The realities of milk production are forcing dairy communities across the globe to rethink the dairy production process.
Solar power is changing lives in unexpected places. This episode visits with unique solar power training programs in Zanzibar and Los Angeles.
- 1 of 9
- next ›