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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published December 11 2013

Company targets southern ND for drilling in 'Sleeping Giant' program

BISMARCK – An oil and gas company is working to wake what it calls a sleeping giant in an area of southern North Dakota far outside of the state’s traditional drilling region.

Strata-X Energy has received permits to drill four wells in Emmons and McIntosh counties as part of an exploratory program known as wildcatting, the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division announced Wednesday.

The company, headquartered in Denver, says on its website the wells will target natural gas in the shallow Niobrara Formation, a significant petroleum system the company says has been overlooked in the southeastern Williston Basin.

The permits, approved Wednesday, give Strata-X permission to drill two wells near Wishek and two wells near Linton, said Alison Ritter, the division’s spokeswoman.

The Oil and Gas Division issued a news release on the permits because it’s so rare for permits to be approved that far east of U.S. Highway 83, said Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms.

The state has no record of either county ever producing oil or gas, Ritter said.

Strata-X Energy calls its plan the Sleeping Giant Gas Project.

“The Niobrara Formation in this area has been overlooked despite gas shows and small flares being reported,” the company says on its website.

If the wells are successful, other operators will likely follow and do more exploration, Ritter said.

“If successful, any type of serious drilling would really be years away,” Ritter said.

North Dakota has some natural gas wells, but most drilling in North Dakota targets oil.

Strata-X Energy, which did not respond to questions requesting comment Wednesday, says on its website that two interstate natural gas pipelines run through the area, which could facilitate marketing the gas.

Oilfield geologist Kathy Neset of Tioga said it’s exciting that the company is exploring and testing the formation.

“Niobrara is hugely productive in Wyoming,” Nest said. “To me, this leads toward many different formations that have potential in this Williston Basin.”

In Wyoming, the Niobrara Formation is primarily targeted for oil, but also produces significant natural gas, said Mark Watson, petroleum engineer with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.