The Tyler Formation of southwest North Dakota is a geologically complex region regarded by many as the Bakken Formation's little brother. Vertical drilling has enabled the production of oil from the region in the past, but most of the oil recoverable via this process has already been tapped.
Source: North Dakota Geological survey
But declining production from the Tyler Formation, which was only recently believed to presage the eventual abandonment of efforts, could be revivified by the introduction of modern horizontal drilling techniques in the region.
Marathon Oil has announced that it will be the first company to implement the modern techniques in the Tyler Formation. And while admitting that it does not have the same potential as the Bakken, Marathon hopes that its geographical kinship to its older brother will render these techniques successful in the region.
Approximately three years ago, officials with the North Dakota Geological Survey began writing reports on the Tyler's potential. It was these reports that first prompted Marathon's interest in the region. While Marathon is not the only company to have expressed interest in applying the modern horizontal drilling techniques at Tyler, it is the first company to granted permission to implement them.
The company has already commenced drilling a well in northeastern Slope County and has secured permits to drill four wells in the formation thus far.
Lynn Helms, North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources Director, says that development of the Tyler formation is now where that of the Bakken was in 2004, when horizontal drilling began to tap new wells in the now-burgeoning formation.
The Bakken Formation
Marathon estimates that it will get approximately 1.6 million boe from the four Tyler wells. Vertical drilling has produced roughly 85 million barrels of oil from about 288 Tyler wells since drilling began in North Dakota in the late 1950s. But with vertical drilling having ostensibly run its course in the formation, new techniques are required.
Marathon has stepped up to the plate. Other companies will inevitably follow. The Tyler Formation is definitely worth keeping an eye on.