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Geologic Cross Section of the Williston Basin

The Williston Basin is a large geologic feature of North America that covers more than 300,000 square miles. For more than 550 million years, the basin has accumulated nearly 16,000′ of sedimentary rock near the center, in western North Dakota. The wealth of natural resources in the Williston Basin is the product of the geologic history of the region. Organic material deposited in the shallow seas that repeatedly covered the area has been transformed into oil and gas. In more recent geologic time, the large swamps bordering rivers accumulated thick layers of vegetation that were buried by sediments and slowly converted to lignite coal.

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estimated oil currently being recovered


age of Bakken oil, in millions of years


depth of recovered CarbonSAFE core


dinosaurs involved in oil or coal (they came much later)

Subsurface Activities

Each activity at the EERC that focuses on the subsurface is developed with a combination of local, state, and federal investment to ensure North Dakota’s resources are used in a wise, safe, and sustainable manner. The need to improve the productivity of a world-class oil resource and a desire to manage CO2 emissions has led to interest in the use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and associated storage in the Bakken Formation. The EERC is using advanced laboratory characterization methods to better understand and quantify the geologic factors that control CO2 and oil mobility and determine the CO2 permeation and oil extraction rates in the organic-rich shales of the Bakken.

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