Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Demonstration of Integrated Remote Sensing Analysis to Identify Oil Exploration
Leads in the Williston Basin, Fort Berthold Indian Reservation
Project was in response to DOE's solicitation (DE-RP26-99BC13184, 1999) Applications
of Petroleum Technologies on Native American and Alaskan Native Corporation
properties for the benefit of the entire tribe/native corporation. The initiative
seeks to stimulate economic development and increase oil and gas production
on Native American lands while protecting the environment.
Explore the potential of the Fort Berthold Reservation and create a market to
attract independent operators. Integration of remote sensing data to access
exploration potential, taking maximum advantage of existing data availability,
but also a relatively low-cost approach that will be readily applicable elsewhere.
The Lake Sakakawea area of Fort Berthold reservation forms a large, continuous
block attractive for development, which could benefit the Three Affiliated Tribes
through jobs and royalty income.
Advanced Resources International
Three Affiliated Tribes
Fort Berthold Reservation, ND
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Eleven oil prospects under Lake Sakakawea have been identified using remote
The oil recovered from the Fort Berthold region will be a significant benefit
to the Three Affiliated Tribes. If all are successful, the eleven leads identified
are estimated to yield a total of 8.9 MMbbl of recoverable oil.
The integrated approach to surveying a large block of undeveloped land provides
a method that other Tribes in the western U.S. may find useful for exploration
of land that has only recently been turned over to them through Federal and
State policies. The technologies for exploration and assessment of oil potential
under bodies of water or areas where surface access is restricted by other factors
provides opportunity for development using innovative horizontal drilling and
The Three Affiliated Tribes-Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara-have almost 600,000 acres
of land in the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota open for oil and gas
exploration. The reservation lies close to the Nesson Anticline, a large oil
producing structure in the southern Williston Basin. Approximately 40 MMbbl
of oil have been identified on Tribal lands in Antelope Field.
150,000 acres of Tribal lands lie beneath Lake Sakakawea, formed when the Army
Corps of Engineers built a dam on the Missouri River in 1951. In the past ten
years the lake and mineral rights under the lake were restored to Tribal ownership.
Although 100 wells have been drilled on tribal lands, no wells have been drilled
on Lake Sakakawea acreage, due to lack of knowledge about potential structures
or delineation of prospects.
- Two LandSat images acquired to provide coverage beyond bounds of reservation
area, and to assist in fault interpretation.
- Lineament density maps constructed from multiple fracture orientations.
The lineaments represent the surface traces of fracture zones that create
linear trends of weak, easily eroded rock.
- Northeastern portion of reservation heavily glaciated reducing the number
of lineaments observed.
- Lineaments were traced into and calculated below the glacial till.
- Reviewed and mapped the regional scale national isostatic and aeromagnetic
grids and integrated the data to local scale.
- Remote sensing and regional gravity and magnetic data sets support four
additional basement shear zones in addition to three previously identified
- 200 miles of seismic survey data was purchased and interpreted.
- Seismic data provided direct indications of structure and potential leads
under Lake Sakakawea.
- Primary hydrocarbon targets in the area east of Antelope tend to be combined
structural/stratigraphic traps formed on and around subtle paleohighs.
Completed the analysis of all producing wells in or near the Fort Berthold
reservation to compare and contrast potential for leads under Lake Sakakawea.
ARI developed an exploration strategy for Fort Berthold using 200 miles of seismic,
Landsat and aeromagnetic data covering the area surrounding and beneath Lake
Sakakawea. Geological analysis began with studies of surface lineaments using
satellite imagery and high-resolution aeromagnetic data. Existing onshore data
was reprocessed using improved methodology, and integrated with 200 miles of
new seismic survey data. Well data from existing wells in Antelope Field producing
from Madison Limestone and Bakken Shale provided data for geologic correlation,
information on drilling and completion intervals, and estimates of well rates
and recovery factors. Because the area of interest was under Lake Sakakawea,
the use of onshore horizontal wells (to extend under the lake) were studied.
Seismic data and aeromagnetic depth maps were combined to image paleohighs revealing
numerous seismic structures in the western portion of the Fort Berthold Reservation,
including four previously unidentified basement shear zones. The structures
are larger than typical Williston Basin Red River structures. Oil in Antelope
Field accumulated in structural and stratigraphic traps in and around paleohighs.
Ten promising structural prospects were generated by the combined seismic, aeromagnetic
and Landsat surveys. These areas are all assessable using horizontal well technology.
Oil potential was also identified based on stratigraphic mapping in the eastern
portion of Lake Sakakawea. The 11 identified prospects may expect oil recovery
ranging from 283,000 to 1.7 MMbbl each.
Horizontal wells in the southern Williston Basin cost $450,000 to $1 million,
thus using all available data and resources to generate and analyze prospects
is an important strategy.
Current Status (August 2004)
The project was completed in February 2004. Recommendations to the Three Affiliated
Tribes included: 1) drill a test well at one or more of the prospects identified,
2) acquire an additional 300 miles of seismic survey lines that are available
and integrate the data with the present survey and, 3) market the eleven prospects
to independent operators.
ARI's detailed reservoir characterization of the Fort Berthold Tribal lands
are currently being marketed to independent operators who may be willing to
join with the Three Affiliated Tribes to develop the Lake Sakakawea area. To
encourage oil and gas exploration and production and aid the Tribes, North Dakota
is providing a special tax relief program to promote development on the reservation.
An electronic copy of the report detailing the study are available from NETL
Project Start: August 27, 2002
Project End: February 26, 2004
Anticipated DOE Contribution: $3298,000
Performer Contribution: $338,000 (53% of total)
NETL - Virginia Weyland (firstname.lastname@example.org or 918-699-2041)
ARI - Scott Reeves (email@example.com@usgs.gov or 713-780-3819 or 713-780-0815)
Three Affiliated Tribes consists of the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa.
Lake Sakakawea on Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, ND.
Map of Lake Sakakawea region showing the top 5 leads geneerated with their estimated reserves, as well as estimated finding and development costs per barrel.