May 1, 2015

Inside The Boom: A BBQ With Bakken Crude

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Kelly Jean holds up a bottle of light, sweet Bakken crude oil.

Emily Guerin

Kelly Jean holds up a bottle of light, sweet Bakken crude oil.

No, I didn’t use crude oil to light my charcoal (although that would’ve been sweet). But a little Nalgene bottle of the light, sweet stuff did make an appearance at my first barbecue of summer 2015. After mountain biking at one of Bismarck’s best local trails, some friends and I sat around drinking beer and grilling, enjoying the fact that it is barely May and we already have light until 9 p.m. One of these friends was rummaging around by the driver’s seat for something and came back with this little bottle of orange liquid. He works in the oilfields doing flowback, checking the level of oil and wastewater in tanks on well pads, and he’d collected a little bit of Bakken crude while on the job. Did anyone want to see it?

YES, I blurted out. Despite having spent the last 11 months covering the Bakken oil boom I’d never seen the oil in person. It’s always hidden in pipelines, tanks, or railcars. I opened the cap and sniffed. It smelled like gasoline, and it was much lighter and thinner than I expected.

I took it home, and now it sits in my living room as a little reminder that if not for this oil and the rush it created, I wouldn’t be here in North Dakota at all.