Seattle. Missoula. Washington. Helena. Oil patch!
Two months from now, I’m moving to the oil patch.
I will spend the summer as a reporter for the newspaper in a rapidly growing North Dakota town of 1,300.
Yes, you read that correctly. I’m moving to a town with a population smaller than my high school. It’s called Tioga, the “Oil Capital of North Dakota.”
Tioga is a modern-day boom town in the middle of the Bakken formation, where oil-rich shale lies 10,000 feet below the earth’s surface. Innovations in drilling technology have created rigs that not only carve deep into the earth, but also horizontally through the shale rock. Horizontal drilling allows a single pump to extract much more oil than it could 20 years ago when wells simply extended downward from the earth’s surface.
Drilling in the Bakken also involves “fracking.” It’s short for “hydraulic fracturing” and occurs when fluids are shot deep into the earth under high pressure to create fractures in the shale. Those fissures release the oil, which gets pumped to the earth’s surface by these things:
Oil pumps dot the prairie in western North Dakota and eastern Montana and will mark my summer landscape. I’ve been to the area once to write a really, really, really long article on what life’s like for a reporter at a newspaper in the oil patch. Funny that I’m now headed to the Bakken to live the life of the protagonist in my story.
I’m excited. I never thought I would live in a small town. In a way, it feels a little backwards. Two months ago, I lived in Washington, D.C. I now live in Montana’s state capital. Two months from now, I will move to a place nearly impossible to find on Google Maps unless you know precisely where to zoom.
While in North Dakota, I want to document boom town life for my senior honors project, although I am only beginning to think about what that will entail. Between that project and my official reporting job, I’ll remain plenty busy. Fortunately, there’s nothing more interesting to me than exploring a community so drastically different from the place I grew up.
Am I crazy for wanting to live in the heart of oil country? Probably. But I like adventures, and this seems like one worth pursuing.