First North Dakota Oil Well
After decades of dry holes drilled from one corner of the state to the other, in 1951 new technologies and determination – true grit – brought North Dakota’s first oil discovery. Photo courtesy BakenBlog.com.
The exploratory well on the farm of Clarence Iverson northeast of Williston endured blizzards and was “shot” with perforation tools several times before finally producing oil on April 4, 1951.
The discovery in Mr. Iverson’s wheat field launched the first drilling boom of the North Dakota Williston Basin.
At about one in the morning on April 4, after four months of hard drilling and with snow piled high from recent blizzards, the Clarence Iverson No. 1 well produced oil.
Amerada Petroleum’s 1951 discovery – the first commercial oil well in North Dakota – will help reveal a prolific petroleum basin stretching from North and South Dakota, Montana, and into Canada.
Although this wildcat drilling attempt had been regarded with great skepticism, within two months of the strike 30 million acres were under lease. A 2008 article in the Bismarck Tribune, quotes Sid Anderson, the former state geologist, who was a college student at the University of North Dakota when oil was discovered.
“It was brand new, then, and pretty exciting times,” said Anderson. The amber-colored oil in the area was of such high quality, Anderson recalled, that “you could have run a diesel with it straight from the well.”
The Williston Basin will produce more than five billion barrels of oil by 2008.
“This was the first major discovery in a new geologic basin since before World War II,” James Key writes in Word & Picture Story of Williston & Area.
By 1952, Standard Oil of Indiana was building a 30,000 barrel per day refinery, he notes. Forty-two oilfield service and supply companies had opened offices in Williston. In June, Service Pipeline Company announced it would build a pipeline to the Standard refinery.
Key adds that although the Williston Basin is named after the city of Williston,