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In the far reaches of North Dakota and Canada, a marginal and inhospitable area of land has turned into an oil eldorado for thousands of victims of the credit crunch, causing mayhem.

The oil and shale gas wells in the Williston town basin in North Dakota, are among the most important in the States. These deposits were discovered in 1910, but have only been workable and profitable for the past 4 years, thanks to the new technique of horizontal hydraulic fracturing. North Dakota produces the most oil in the States, second only to Texas.

In Williston alone, the population has doubled in a year, and caravans and mobile homes surround the town. These dormitory towns are often set up hurriedly on wasteland by investors looking to house oil company employees (for prices ranging, according to comfort, from 100 to 150 dollars per nuit, two meals included). The new hotel currently being built in Watford City near Williston is already fully-booked for the forseeable future, before even having opened its doors. Food, goods and other items sell out so fast that rather than restocking shelves, Walmart now leaves everything on the delivery palettes in the alleyways of the hypermarket. They disappear at once. « I have been unsuccessfully trying to buy a lettuce for three days » says one inhabitant.

Accidents in the county have risen by 102% in a year, and it is even rumoured that Las Vegas has lost its title of world striptease capital to Williston. There are currently 198 drilling platforms, compared to only 30 in 2009.

 Produced with Jean-Christophe Servant for the text, on assignment for GEO France magazine.


Geo France

Decembre 2012 France

"Sous la prairie, l'or noir". L’exploitation du gaz de schiste dans le Dakota du Nord