The Bakken: Willston Basin


This e-symposium will look at:

  • The Bakken Petroleum system
  • Bakken source beds
  • Horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracture stimulations that are applied to both the Bakken and upper Three Forks
  • An estimate of recoverable oil from the petroleum system


The Mississippian-Devonian Bakken Petroleum System of the Williston Basin is characterized by low-porosity and permeability reservoirs, organic-rich source rocks, and regional hydrocarbon charge. The unconventional play is the current focus of exploration and development activity by many operators. Previous workers have described significant Bakken source rock potential and estimates of oil generated from the petroleum system range from 10 to 400 billion barrels. The USGS (2008) mean technologically recoverable resource estimates for the Bakken Formation are 3.65 billion barrels of oil, 1.85 trillion cubic ft of associated/dissolved natural gas, and 148 million barrels of natural gas liquids.

The Bakken petroleum system is thought to have created a continuous type of accumulation in the deeper parts of the Williston Basin (Nordeng, 2009). A continuous accumulation is a hydrocarbon accumulation that has some or all of the following characteristics: pervasive hydrocarbon charge throughout a large area; no well-defined, oil- or gas-water contact; diffuse boundaries; commonly is abnormally pressured; large in-place resource volume, but low recovery factor; little water production; geologically controlled “sweet spots”; reservoirs commonly in close proximity to mature source rocks; reservoirs have very low matrix permeabilities; and water occurs up dip from hydrocarbons. The Bakken petroleum system meets all these characteristics.

Many of the reservoirs in the Bakken petroleum system have low permeability. Productive areas or “sweet spots” are localized areas of improved reservoir permeability through natural fracturing or development of matrix permeability, or combination of both.

This course is designed for geologists, geophysicists, engineers, and support technicians who are interested in the Bakken Petroleum system.

Each e-symposium consists of one-hour live e-symposium, along with material for one full day of independent study. The live portion will be followed by a full day of independent study (not a live event). You will be able to email responses to the readings, along with your study question answers for CEU credit (if you sign up for the extended package).

Instructor: Stephen A., Sonnenberg is a Professor and holds the Charles Boettcher Distinguished Chair in Petroleum Geology at the Colorado School of Mines. He specializes in unconventional reservoirs, sequence stratigraphy, tectonic influence on sedimentation, and petroleum geology. A native of Billings, Montana, Sonnenberg received BS and MS degrees in geology from Texas A&M University and a Ph.D. degree in geology from the Colorado School of Mines. He has over twenty-five years experience in the industry. Steve has served as President of several organizations including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, and Colorado Scientific Society. He also served on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 1997-2003 and was the Chair of the Commission from 1999-2003. He is the recipient of the Young Alumnus Award, Outstanding Alumnus Award, and Mines Medal from the Colorado School of Mines, Distinguished Achievement Medal from Texas A&M University, distinguished service awards from AAPG and RMAG, and honorary membership awards from AAPG, RMAG and the Colorado Scientific Society.


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “The Bakken: Willston Basin”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *