Keeping up with the Bakken

NEW TOWN – The Three Affiliated Tribes did not have an Energy Division until several years ago.

But with the Bakken boom – the oil and gas development on the Fort Berthold Reservation and in other areas in western North Dakota – the tribes’ council members approved setting up a division specifically for energy.

Carson Hood Jr., in his fourth year as acting administrator of the Energy Division, said the workload has increased tremendously for the Energy Division staff.

Currently, the Energy Division works out of offices in the Easement Building, across the street from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Berthold Agency. Work is scheduled to start this summer on a new Energy Office located southeast of the Tribal Administration building, west of New Town.

The site is already staked out and the work on it should start soon, Hood said in a July 2 interview. He said it will house all the oil and gas departments including natural resources, Tribal Employment Rights Office (better known as TERO), fish and wildlife, and environmental.

Fort Berthold Reservation is in the heart of the Bakken, the lucrative formation for oil production.

Mandaree is the “hot zone” for the oil and gas development, then Four Bears, New Town/Shell Creek area, Parshall and Twin Buttes, said Hood and Kenny Lyson, the division’s safety officer. White Shield doesn’t have any oil and gas development at this time.

According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, Fort Berthold is producing more than 300,000 barrels of oil per day on trust land and fee land. Trust land is land held in trust by the federal government. Fee land is land that is not held in trust.

The reservation has 1,174 active wells producing oil and 160 wells waiting on completion, according to a recent report from the Mineral Resources Department

Hood said the amount of oil produced on Fort Berthold equates to about 30 percent of the production in North Dakota.

Currently, nine operators or oil companies are working on the Fort Berthold Reservation – Marathon, WPX, Enerplus, QEP, EOG, Halcon, XTO, Kodiak and Spotted Hawk Development, Hood said.

One of the major projects Hood is currently working on is with the midstreamers which are the major pipeline companies that help the industry transport product either by rail or to a refinery. “Our future plans are to transport to our refinery, the Thunder Butte,” Hood said. The tribes’ Thunder Butte refinery will be built near Makoti.

Hood said about 20 percent of the infrastructure on Fort Berthold Reservation is complete. “So we have a ways to go to start getting product shipped either by pipeline or rail system. Right now it’s being transported by truck, which is a huge traffic concern,” he said. He said a large number of the trucks go right through New Town on its Main Street each day – and past the Energy Division’s offices.

Currently, the Energy Division is seeking comments from the public on a resolution oil and gas pipeline mid-stream structure setback that was approved by the tribal business council in May.

The amended act says after Aug. 13, 2013, pipelines cannot be placed within 700 feet and pipeline facilities cannot be placed within 1,100 feet of an occupied residence, tribal building, school, hospital, or other structure where people are known to congregate or actually reside. The previous setback for both was 2,600 feet.

Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said if the tribes had not reduced the setback with a variance from 2,600 feet to 700 feet and 1,100 feet, “we wouldn’t be able to hook to wells and flaring would continue so this resolution would allow us to do that now.”

The public can comment on the resolution by sending an email to or to Carson Hood Jr., acting administrator, MHA Nation Energy Division, P.O. Box 1407, New Town, ND 58763 or fax 627-5101. Comments must be received by July 20. The document is available for viewing at (

mhaenergydivision.html) or at the Energy Division offices.

“Once you carry over the work helping the midstreamers get infrastructure in, it carries over to the issue of gas flaring on FBIR (Fort Berthold Indian Reservation),” Hood said.

North Dakota regulators recently adopted stringent gas flaring rules to reduce the amount of natural gas being flared in the state.

Hood said a proposed gas capturing plan for Fort Berthold Reservation is in process and should be ready at the end of this month. It will be the policy for the tribes’ regulation for gas flaring that operators on Fort Berthold will follow, he said.

Hood is co-chair of the Gas Flaring Task Force Committee with Claryca Mandan, tribal Natural Resources administrator, and Jim Glenn, of Halcon.

The tribal Energy Division is comprised of 13 people. Besides Hood as acting administrator, the staff includes a petroleum engineer, regulatory affairs officer, production analyst, safety officer, compliance manager, six compliance officers, office manager, receptionist and other office personnel.

Hood said when the department started several years ago it had about six employees.

He said the department has just hired two environmental science May graduates of Fort Berthold Community College in New Town: Nicole Wells, environmental specialist, and Edward Krueger, GIS (geographic information systems) technician. Both are full-time employees. “They’re very beneficial and an asset with the major they have in their field of work,” Hood said.

He said the majority of the personnel with the Energy Division are enrolled members of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Originally from New Town and an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, Hood went to Dickinson State University. He worked for the federal Forest Service for eight years and two years for Marathon, working on drilling rigs.

As the administrator, Hood, along with the petroleum engineer, regulatory affairs officer and production analyst, ensure that the production statistics are correct and given to the tribal business council and to the public on a monthly basis. “Also with the gas flaring percentages we put that out to the public as well,” he said.

Hood works with the Natural Resources Committee and gives reports that go to the tribal business council.

He said the Energy Division personnel also have moved into the area of leasing and permitting by assisting the BIA with it.

Energy Division personnel also check on and do the follow ups for any spills on the reservation.

Hood also said there are more and more 100 percent Native-owned companies on the reservation including transportation companies (i.e. saltwater haulers, production haulers, etc.) roustabout workers, welders, laborers, pipeline workers, private subcontracted consultants to assist with obtaining right of ways, leases, etc. who are working with industry.

“We have a lot of participation from our enrolled members in the workforce, which is really a plus,” Hood said.

Fort Berthold Reservation is getting known nationwide for its oil production, Hood said.

“The FBIR really stands out as far as a nationwide reservation (for oil and gas production),” he said.

He said several other tribes have development on their reservations, particularly natural gas and some oil. “But for the most, the Three Affiliated Tribes are the largest crude oil-producing reservation in the nation. If FBIR was a state, we’d be the seventh in the nation in producing crude. The chairman (Tex Hall) uses that statement quite a bit,” Hood said.