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Touring the oil fields: Bakken Field Tours to offer intimate look at drilling activity in the Oil Patch

WILLISTON -- For people who drive through North Dakota's oil country and wonder what the heck they're looking at, a new tour will erase some of the mystery.

The Bakken Field Tours, which launch in July, will give people a chance to take an 11-hour bus tour through the Oil Patch that features an explanation of oil and gas development.

The night prior to the tour, participants will get a three-hour educational workshop that lays the groundwork for what they'll see on the tour.

"It's going to open a world that we don't get to see every day," said Amber Bertsch, a Williston native who will lead the tours.

The tours are organized by DAWA Solutions Group, a Williston communication and small-business development firm that sponsored the Bakken Investor Conference and the Bakken Housing Summit.

During those events, people looking at business opportunities in North Dakota asked about taking oil field tours to learn more about the Bakken, said Jeff Zarling, the group's president.

The tours are geared for investors, developers and community leaders who are interested in learning about oil development, but they also may appeal to tourists and members of the public, Zarling said.

The tour will cover energy development activities, oil and gas infrastructure, commercial and residential construction, economic development activities, community and infrastructure impacts and a crew camp tour and meal.

Participants will not get to tour a drilling rig, but the tour will stop near one and the guide will describe the process they're seeing.

"There's just too many issues with liability and logistics," Zarling said of a rig tour.

The workshop will cover how hydraulic fracturing works, but that won't be included on the tour.

Participants on the tour will get to see crude-oil loading terminals, and they will get the benefit of having someone explain workover rigs, salt water disposal wells and other aspects of oil and gas development.

"You get that interpretation as you're seeing the activity so you know exactly what's going on," Zarling said.

People often call the state's Tourism Division to ask about Bakken tours, said Kim Schmidt, public and media relations manager.

This is the first tour tourism officials have been able to refer people to, and Schmidt expects there will be interest from tourists.

"I believe this tour is an opportunity for people to actually go out and see what it's all about," Schmidt said.

The cost of the tours is $325, not including the price of a hotel room. Rooms have been reserved in advance.

The tours start in either Williston or Minot, with the first one scheduled July 27-28 from Williston and the second one July 31-Aug. 1 from Minot.

Tours are scheduled through September, and more could be added if there is strong interest, Zarling said.

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