The bust is inevitable. As noted in an earlier post “Bakken Boom: Economics Past, Present, and Future,” when the drilling stops so does the employment of 90% of the patch’s workforce. Although the oil will continue to flow far beyond the end of drilling, the possibilities for post-drilling North Dakota rest in the creation of a future that either: brings new industry to employ the boom influx population, re-uses infrastructure developed for the patch, re-distributes equipment and materials to areas of need (most likely outside of the Bakken), harnesses usable energy (harness energy burned in flares) or any combination thereof.
Even with the large influx of workers into the Bakken, it still remains a relatively rural and regionally speaking, low density area. This raises possibilities for growth in the area that relies less on the number of people involved and more on the infrastructure and energy available in the area. One such future could be computing.
The above picture and diagram are from Facebook’s Prineville, OR Data Center. These facilities are characterized by a strange duality: a massive physical, energy and economic presence in the landscape, with an exponentially larger identity within the intangibility of the cloud. Both physical and etherial, these facilities are powering the advancement of global computing, and communication capabilities. Throughout the last five decades, the advancement of data management and support has generated monumental achievements in science, business, healthcare, design, etc… Throughout the short history of mankind and computing, our insatiability for capacity is clear. Below are Facebook’s Arctic Storage Facility in Sweeden and its great-great grandfather.
So with new possibilities to harness the excess gas typically burned off at the site of the well and an abundance of post-drilling materials and infrastructure, sensitive and continually energy hungry data centers could give North Dakota a new opportunity to provide for hungry humans.