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Some innovations change the world — electricity, the printing press, radio and television, automobiles, airplanes, Velcro.

And then there are the unconventional drilling and oil recovery technologies like those used in the Bakken formation.

While both horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have been around for some time, combining the two technologies has changed the oil industry in North Dakota. They are now used in formations across the United States where unconventional development is the best way to recover oil and natural gas.

Growing positions in any oil reservoir takes on an individual approach, both for companies and for individual plays, according to Mike Eberhard, Halliburton’s technical manager of the Rockies.

“Each area is unique, and even areas within a basin are unique,” Eberhard said. “The Montana Bakken is different than the North Dakota or Canadian Bakken. Even within North Dakota, Dunn County is different than Parshall. It requires nearly a well-by-well approach.”

The overall technologies—namely horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—appear similar, but Eberhard said there are a lot of subtle differences from area to area and from company to company. Other company representatives agree.

“Every company has to look at the particular challenges for each area,” said Paul Bond, Baker Hughes’ marketing director for drilling systems in U.S. lands. “It’s very dependent on the reservoir you’re working in.”

Eberhard said the subtle differences for the Bakken require staged hydraulic fracturing as well as different completion methods from other formations.

Image courtesy of Baker Hughes By Gwen Bristol for the Tribune “There are also differences in


drilling bit designs to drill the harder dolomitic formation, mud systems and directional drilling requirements,” Eberhard said.

While unconventional technology continues to be adapted to the Bakken formation, some large companies are finding that horizontal drilling and its related technologies are set to impact shale plays across the world.

At the Credit Suisse 2011 Energy Summit in February, Marathon Oil president and CEO Clarence Cazalot said the company’s focus remains in the U.S. but it also has a strong, although very early, interest in Poland.

Marathon has acquired 2.3 million net acres of a shale play in Poland and is in the beginning stages of exploration. Seismic testing will commence early this year with plans to begin test drilling late in 2011. These tests will allow the company to evaluate the amount of recoverable natural gas and the best techniques for retrieval.

Similarly, Hess Corporation announced this past May a partnership with Toreador for plans to recover oil from a shale play in France. In September, Hess signed an agreement that could help recover oil from the Daqing shale play in China, which a Hess official said is similar to the Bakken formation.

Continental Resources also announced in February that it is looking into the possibility of recovering oil in the Paris Basin in France in an 80/20 joint effort with Jordan Oil and Gas.

“We see this as a very interesting opportunity to which we could apply the technology that we’ve helped develop in the Bakken,” said Jeff Hume, chief operation officer of Continental Resources.

Across the globe, there are several shale plays that could produce oil or natural gas. Some of the best- known plays in the U.S. include the

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