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Aggregate Mining

Aggregate Mining

The rush to North Dakota has only begun. Much of the available land that can be drilled for oil has been leased. Just over 8,000 wells have been drilled in the Bakken fields of North Dakota.  A drilling lot is comprised of 1280 acres and typically carries a stipulation that a well be drilled and producing within 1 year from the inception date of the lease.

Two thousand new oil drilling pads will be built in the next 12 months.    However, with the new methods of horizontal multi-pad drilling that have been developed, up to 5 additional wells can be placed on the same 1280 acre plot. These additional wells are directed at different levels of the shale formation. It is mathematically achievable to see 60,000 drilled wells with 50,000 or more producing wells over the next 15 years. 

Obviously, an incredible demand for infrastructure has been created.  Each producing well has an average cost to develop of about 8.5 million dollars.  Part of the expense to create an oil well pad is in the aggregate rock needed.  An average of 4,000 to 6,000 tons of crushed rock is needed to stabilize a pad.  In addition, depending on the location, 2 to 6 miles of linear road is needed to support the trucks and equipment in the construction of the oil wells. In order to build the initial oil drilling pad, the roads have to be constructed first.  These roads must be able to sustain continuous usage by heavy equipment, trucks and trailers.

 A normal road requires approximately 15,000 tons of crushed aggregate per mile of road construction. The oil field roads sometimes utilize three to five times this amount to compensate for the heavy usage and the composition of the soil.

Once the drilling has completed, and the oil is being produced, trucks loaded with injection water (for the fracking extraction process), bracken water (the wastewater resulting from the fracking), and eventually, the pumped crude oil create an endless stream of big rig trucks that operate 24 hours a day.  This endless stream of trucks eventually break down the aggregate roads in 1 to 2 years.  The aggregate rock and sand are transported in the road building phase utilizing a special trailers called “belly dumps”.  A belly dump can transport 21 tons of aggregate to an undeveloped site. This weight wreaks havoc on the existing roads. The construction of an oil pad or road is a continuous process that may run 24 hours per day. A normal paved road is built to handle 10 to 20 heavy trucks per day.  In the Bakken, roads are used 24 hours a day and are handling as many as 600 trucks in that time period. This has caused a tremendous load on the entire infrastructure in North Dakota.

The following was in a recent report submitted to the 63rd North Dakota Legislative Assembly: Excerpts from the “Unpaved Road Analysis”:

“the predicted statewide infrastructure needs are $5 billion for the next 20 years. Approximately 53% of these needs can be traced to the 17 oil and gas producing counties.

North Dakota has approved 2.7 billion dollars for the rebuilding, replacement and widening of the roads.  Approximately 60% of those funds are designated for use in the “oil patch”.

Luminart is uniquely positioned to capture a significant part of this market