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Robust RBDMS Database Allows North Dakota Industrial Commission to Adapt to Bakken Boom

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Bakken Oil Boom

In 2010 Williston was a quiet town in rural northwestern North Dakota with a population of 14,700. Within four years the population had more than doubled and rent prices soared to levels usually only seen in New York City or San Francisco. This huge influx of people was driven by the Bakken oil boom which brought big changes to North Dakota’s oil and gas industry. The North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) Oil and Gas Division, which regulates oil and gas activity in the state, had to adapt to these changes. RBDMS provided both the stability and flexibility for the NDIC to continue to fulfill its regulatory obligations during this significant period of growth. 

The NDIC Oil and Gas Division installed RBDMS in 2002.  At the time, the agency was overseeing an industry producing 85,000 barrels per day, applying for 15 drilling permits per month, and operating 3,967 wells and 13 drilling rigs at any given time.  In 2006 the discovery of the Parshall Oil Field started a large expansion of oil extraction from the Bakken formation.  At the height of the oil boom in 2011, activity had jumped significantly to 464,000 barrels per day, 150 drilling permits per month, 6,841 wells, and 200 rigs drilling.  To handle this increase, the NDIC Oil and Gas Division went from 30 full-time equivalent employees completing 39,537 inspections in 2006 to 93 full-time equivalents completing 193,637 inspections in 2016. The NDIC’s RBDMS database handled this significant increase in volume without a glitch.

“We were a relatively small shop in the early 2000s,” said UIC & Treating Plant Manager Mark Bohrer. “When we installed RBDMS we had no idea that it would need to scale up so dramatically in the coming years, but our core RBDMS handled the increase seamlessly.”  

The Division completed some in-house customizations and added capabilities such as electronic permitting, electronic production reporting, electronic spill reporting and tracking, and a hearing docket case and order management system, but the core database remained the same.

The NDIC also took advantage of the Field Activity System (FAS) which utilizes laptop computers and SQL replication, allowing RBDMS to be deployed in the field. This enhanced the agency’s ability to monitor, oversee, and mitigate any impacts to the environment at the first point of contact. “The ability to customize RBDMS in-house and deploy the changes immediately allowed us to continually improve our regulatory oversight while serving the needs of the industry and protecting the environment in the face of an unprecedented increase in activity,” said Bohrer.

The scalability of RBDMS is evident in North Dakota, but it is also reflected in the diversity of other states that use it. Over 25 state oil and gas regulatory agencies have installed RBDMS to track data collected during the regulatory process.  RBDMS states include those with under ten users as well as those with over 100 users.  Currently GWPC is installing RBDMS in both Idaho (20 wells) and California (105,000 wells).  The RBDMS database is robust enough to serve a variety of needs in different states.

“We’ve taken what was done in other states and customized it for New York’s needs,” said Amanda Trotter, Technology Assistance Section Chief with the New York Bureau of Oil & Gas Permitting and Management. “RBDMS is so flexible and so strong that is has allowed us to track everything necessary to run the vast majority of our regulatory program.”

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