kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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This is North Dakota, above the Bakken Formation -- a 360 million year old stratigraphy of rock -- a layer of oil soaked sandstone, between two layers of non-permeable shale -- all of this around two miles below the surface.

The Bakken oil is like a dead whale floating in the ocean -- it's free food and as such it's surrounded by sharks, tearing blubber off as fast as they can, and it's surrounded by little fish that eat the bits dropped by the sharks, and it's filled with big fish that are eating the little fish, and it's surrounded by fishermen who are hauling in the big fish, and it's surrounded by companies that sell boats and fishing rods, and until the whale's gone, this is where the money is.

One thing that makes it a place to get rich quick is that labor is often in high demand, it takes a special type of person to want to come out here and work the type of schedule oil companies demand. It's remote and it's cold and when I say "cold", I mean, sometimes it's 100' below zero. Cold.

The towns over top of the Bakken formation are small without a lot of infrastructure and they don't have the resources to supply a furious stream of new inhabitants -- housing is in especially high demand and as a result, there are many quick solutions. Ranging from huge companies like Target Logistics which come in and build small finished apartments off of trailers to people parking an RV on a lot without water, electricity, or sewage, to people living in tents.

This is one of the camps we documented. RV's off on their own.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

These campers, without access to potable water, electricity, or a septic tank make for a difficult time if you're there for an extended period. RV's are designed to be away from water and power for short periods of time but they require battery charging and waste water removal, this is usually done at an RV park, but here people often use generators and sewage disposal, at times, involves digging a ditch.

Here's the view from the top of this hill where the campers are.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

North Dakota's largely flat and largely empty -- a small hill like this and you can see for miles. The landscape is broken up by belts of trees, planted after the great dust bowl to keep the wind from creating another, and occasional oil equipment -- drilling rigs occasionally, but more often pumpjacks, weird metal grasshoppers, slowly bobbing their heads, sucking oil, water, and natural gas from the ground. Neither of these things take up as much space as temporary housing. All sorts of these camps, from the lone group of hardcore RV's, to posh, heated hotel trailers with gymnasiums, cafeterias and laundromats occupy a great deal of landscape above the Bakken.

Drilling the well takes a lot of people and a short period of time (the well goes down for about two miles, then turns horizontal for another two miles), and after that the wells operate almost without the need for people. Engineers occasionally vist to check up on them and truckers arrive to remove the collected oil, water & gas, so waves of workers come and go, depending on what's happening and who's hiring.

The whys and hows and whens of what creates this housing boom, how camps get built, adapted for cold or heat, how they get amenities and how they form communities are all parts of what Bill Caraher and Bret Weber are looking at, and what I'll be doing my bit to help them with in the weeks and months to come.

More soon, including how you can get involved.

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