Operators in North Dakota must permit projects based on the Rules, Regulations & Policies the Department of Mineral Resources - Oil and Gas Division - has the authority to uphold. 

The Oil and Gas Division issued over 1,500 oil and gas permits during the 2019-2021 biennium.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
Who has jurisdiction to issue oil and gas drilling permits?

The Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas Division, has sole jurisdiction within the state to issue oil and gas drilling permits. However, if the proposed well would drill through federal minerals and/or be drilled from a surface controlled by the federal government, the operator would then also need to receive a federal permit to drill.

What is a permit to drill?

A permit to drill is a license to construct a well in a place and a manner that will prevent waste, protect correlative rights and minimize impacts to the environment and infrastructure.

What is the process for receiving an oil and gas Application for Permit to Drill in North Dakota?

Prior to filing an application for a permit to drill, the applying company must register with the Secretary of State's office to conduct business in North Dakota. The applying company must file an organizational report, pass a background check and receive approval for sufficient bonding to cover the potential cost of plugging and reclaiming the well. After an operator is licensed and bonded they may apply for a permit and pay the $100 processing fee. In the absence of an order from the commission, the operator may use "statewide" spacing. If the permit application spacing differs from "statewide" spacing or the spacing does not exist, then the application may need a commission hearing. Spacing is determined based on the area from which the well will extract minerals.

How can the public get involved in the permitting process?

It is best to get involved before an application for a permit to drill is even filed for by participating in the hearing process. Every month, lands are docketed for hearing under temporary and proper spacing cases or amending field rules. These cases determine the appropriate number of wells that can be drilled in a given area. It would be at this time that interested parties would have the opportunity to comment on potential permits and possible impacts.

What categories of permits are there?

Categories of permits are: Wildcat (WC), Extension (EXT), Development (DEV), Underground Injection Control (UIC), and Stratigraphic Test (ST). A wildcat well is drilled in an undeveloped field and is considered an exploratory well. Drilling a well permitted as extension is generally done within one mile of a developed field with the expectation to expand the boundaries of the developed field should the extension well be deemed economic. A development permit is issued within an established field in order to further develop that field. Most permits issued are development permits. Underground Injection Control permits are issued for enhanced oil recovery and saltwater disposal wells. Stratigraphic test permits are issued to test the viability and to gain additional information about a formation.

Where can I find well permitting forms?

Please visit the Forms page for more information on forms required for permitting or reporting to the Department of Mineral Resources.

What does the commission consider when issuing a permit?

Considerations for a drilling permit can be read in our Rules, Regulations, and Policies - specifically the Drilling Permit Review Policy contains a list of many of the permit considerations.

Does the state have guidelines for well location plats?

All plats must meet the North Dakota State Board of Registration for Professional Land Surveyor standards to include: register w/ND Secretary of State, plats referenced to True North, etc.

Can I access permit applications which have not yet been approved?

No. All information received by the State is not made public until after the well has been issued. Confidentiality will be denoted by each individual permit on a case by case basis after issuance of the permit.

When I receive my permit to drill can I start dirt work right away?

No. The NDIC requires operators to wait 3 business days before starting to build the location or lease road:

Operators shall not commence operations on a drill site until the 3rd business day following publication of the approved drilling permit on the NDIC - OGD Daily Activity Report. If circumstances require operations to commence before the 3rd business day following publication on the Daily Activity Report, the waiting period may be waived by the Director. Application for a waiver must be by sworn affidavit providing the information necessary to evaluate the extenuating circumstances, the factors of NDAC 43-02-03-16.2 (1), (a)-(f), and any other information that would allow the Director to conclude that in the event another owner seeks revocation of the drilling permit, the applicant should retain the permit.

This policy is intended to counter the rapidly increasing workload resulting from minority working interest owners submitting APD's as allowed under North Dakota law and commencing operations without notifying other working interest owners. Under these circumstances, the first opportunity for other working interest owners to learn about the approved drilling permit is when it appears on the NDIC - OGD website Daily Activity Report. The result is a rapidly increasing number of applications to suspend and revoke drilling permits with a change of operator after notice and hearing. In addition, these cases are introducing increasingly complex circumstances which must be evaluated by NDIC - OGD and Attorney General's Office staff.

How long is a permit good? Does it expire? Can it be renewed?

Permits are good for one year from the date of issue and automatically expire after one year has been reached.

An operator may cancel a permit at any time, it is not recommended that an operator let a permit expire.

After one year, a permit may be renewed by the operator on a Form 4 (Sundry Notice) with a $100 fee.

What is a spacing unit and how is it established?

A spacing unit is an area of land assigned to a well or group of wells through the spacing process that establishes the area and vertical limits from which the well(s) can produce based on geological, engineering, and economic data. The commission establishes spacing units for a pool by commission order after notice and hearing. All spacing units have a setback distance that keeps wells far enough from the spacing unit boundary to protect correlative rights (the rights of each owner for a reasonable share of the common source of supply).The order which must specify the size and shape of each unit and the location of the approved well(s) within it in accordance with a reasonably uniform spacing plan. (See N.D.C.C. 38-08-07 Commission Shall Set Spacing Units)

Every well permitted must be previously approved to drill in a drilling unit or a spacing unit and a pool.

What is pooling?

Due to the size of spacing units for horizontal drilling and the subdividing of mineral ownership that has taken place since the land was homesteaded, it is common for a spacing unit to include several different tracts and mineral interests. Once a spacing unit is created, pooling is a process that joins together all tracts and mineral interest within the spacing unit to allow for the sharing of costs and benefits of development. Every owner within a pooled spacing unit receives their "just and equitable" share of every barrel of oil and every cubic foot of natural gas sold from every well within the spacing unit. Pooling allows for the equitable division of the royalties among the mineral owners based on their correlative rights. (See N.D.C.C. 38-08-08 Integration of fractional tracts)

What are overlapping spacing units?

Overlapping spacing units are created by the commission to prevent waste and to protect the correlative rights of interest owners.

In most cases, the establishment of an overlapping spacing unit is due to the setback requirements of two adjacent spacing units resulting in unproduced acreage along the section line where the spacing units are adjacent to one another.

In order to allow the drilling and completion of wells to recover the oil and gas within the 1,000 ft. corridor created by spacing unit setbacks, an overlapping spacing unit (typically 2560-acre size) may be approved. Wells drilled in the 1280-acre spacing units still share among only those interest owners in that 1280-acre spacing unit. Approximately one-half of the production from wells permitted and drilled within the 1,000 foot setback corridor (and assigned to the 2560-acre spacing unit) will come from each of the adjacent spacing unit setbacks. Because those spacing units are pooled, the production is owned and shared by all owners within the spacing units. Therefore, all owners within both adjacent spacing units are affected and share in the production of the section line wells through an overlapping spacing unit.

See video: What are overlapping spacing units?

How does permitting work within lands determined to be an Area of Interest (AOI)?

Public lands within an AOI are subject to the AOI comment and permit policy. You can read more about what lands are considered an AOI, and how to comment on a proposed permit in the Area of Interest Review Policy.

Where can I find statistics on permits issued?

Permits issued each day can be found on the website under Daily Activity Report.

Permits issued during a month can be found at the end of the PDF version of the Monthly Production Report Publication.

The historic number of permits issued in a month, for prior years, can be found on the General Statistics page under "Monthly Statistical Update". These historic permits are typically available mid-February to early March each year to ensure proper quality control and accuracy of data.

What does "Confidential Well" mean?

When an operator requests and is granted confidential (tight hole) status for a well, it restricts our ability to release information about the well. Section 43-02-03-31 of the North Dakota Administrative Code states in part:

  • All information furnished to the director on permits, except the operator name, well name, location, permit date, confidentiality period, spacing or drilling unit description, spud date, rig contractor, central tank battery number, any production runs, or volumes injected into an injection well, shall be kept confidential for not more than six months if requested by the operator in writing. The six-month period shall commence on the date the well is completed or the date the written request is received, whichever is earlier. If the written request accompanies the application for permit to drill or is filed after permitting but prior to spudding, the six-month period shall commence on the date the well is spudded.
  • All information furnished to the director on recompletions or reentries, except the operator name, well name, location, permit date, confidentiality period, spacing or drilling unit description, spud date, rig contractor, any production runs, or volumes injected into an injection well, shall be kept confidential for not more than six months if requested by the operator in writing. The six-month period shall commence on the date the well is completed or the date the well was approved for recompletion or reentry, whichever is earlier. Any information furnished to the director prior to approval of the recompletion or reentry shall remain public.

Section 38-08-04 of the North Dakota Century Code states in part that the commission has the authority:

  • To provide for the confidentiality of well data reported to the commission if requested in writing by those reporting the data for a period not to exceed six months.

Section 43-02-03-14 of the North Dakota Administrative Code states in part:

  • The confidentiality of any data submitted which is confidential pursuant to subsection 6 of North Dakota Century Code section 38-08-04 and section 43-02-03-31 must be maintained.

Section 38-08-16 Part 2 makes willful violation by releasing information a class C felony.

This means that the only information the agency may release during the confidential period is:

  • the operator name,
  • well name,
  • location,
  • permit date,
  • confidentiality period,
  • spacing or drilling unit description,
  • spud date (when they commenced drilling),
  • rig contractor,
  • central tank battery number,
  • any production runs (oil sold), or
  • volumes injected into an injection well.

The date when information can be released for a well may be found in the confidential well list once the well has been spud.

How can I find information on wells by company, location, or field?

Clicking on the "Well Search" button on the left side of our home page will take you to the Well Search page. 

Searches can be performed based on operator name, field name, and township and range.

Is there a file/spreadsheet/database that shows all the permitted wells in North Dakota?
  • GIS Map Server: Click the "Download Shape Files" button in the upper right corner of the GIS map server page. You will see a list of downloadable files appear in the pane on the lower part of the page. The "" file includes a .dbf file (which can be opened in Excel) of all the wells. 
  • Well Search page: Searches can be performed based on operator name, field name, and township and range.
  • Well Index: (Located in Basic Services) includes a spreadsheet of all wells in North Dakota.