Kruise Kemp is no stranger to the courthouses of northeastern Montana. The land manager for Minnesota-based Northern Oil & Gas said there are several buzzing with the land men just like Richland County's.
Many of those speculators are looking to "top lease," meaning their sniffing out existing oil leases that are just about to expire in hopes of swooping in to strike up a new deal just as the clock runs out.
In these parts, Montanans, some with leases that went untapped, have looked in envy toward North Dakota where drilling rigs have cropped up like knapweed the last couple years. There are 138 rigs punching holes through the shale in North Dakota. Here, there is only a handful.
Kemp said the state of North Dakota had provided oil companies with a wealth of services including online field data that made it easy to setup. And drilling rigs attract other drilling rigs. It's a safe assumption when you see other rigs active in your area that you're going to hit something. Having so many rigs drilling in one area puts pressure on companies to permit as many wells as possible before moving on.
But now companies are turning to Montana to further define the productive area of the Bakken. Working with two other companies, Northern launched a new 3,000-acre project in Richland County this month and has two others nearby.