2008 – Outstanding Explorer Award

Award: Outstanding Explorer

Recipient: Michael S. Johnson

Published in: The Outcrop, November 2008, p. 39

The Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists is pleased to recognize Mike Johnson with its 2008 Outstanding Explorer Award. Mike began his career with Amerada Hess, after graduating from Ohio State University with an MS degree in geology in 1949. After a short stint in the military, where he worked as a technician at the atomic bomb Nevada Test Site, he resumed his career with Amerada from 1952 until 1958. Mike then joined Apache Oil Corporation, where he was exploration manager until 1963, when he became an independent geologist. Over the last 45 years, Mr. Johnson has been prospecting for oil and gas in the Rocky Mountain region and overseas. His efforts culminated in the drilling of over 250 wells within 100 prospects, resulting in numerous discoveries.

One of the highlights of Mr. Johnson’s career is his work on the Bakken Shale oil play and his contributions to the discoveries at the Ross Field and Parshall Field in Mountrail County, North Dakota. In 2004, Mike and his partners acquired 6000 acres in east Mountrail County and sold it as a Bakken reservoir prospect, even though the nearest Bakken producer was many miles to the west along the structurally prominent Nesson Anticline. Eventually EOG Resources took the prospect and drilled a horizontal well, which became the discovery well for the Ross Field. Buoyed by this success and the knowledge that the Bakken potential extended farther east in the Williston basin, Mike again acquired 38,000 acres over what is now the Parshall Field in Mountrail County, ND. Initially the prospect was met with skepticism because it was outside the “known” Bakken oil maturity region. A discovery well at Parshall was completed in 2006, and continued drilling has resulted in 35 more wells at Parshall Field, where production rates as high as 2000 BOPD have been reported. Since those oil discoveries, a Bakken horizontal drilling boom has been ignited in the Williston Basin. Over 60 wells are currently drilling for Bakken Shale targets in North Dakota and there are plans for many more. Estimates now are that the Bakken Shale reservoir extends over 25,000 square miles with the USGS estimating 4.3 Billion barrels of oil, 1.8 TCF gas and 143 MMBO gas liquids recoverable.

As with many discoveries of this scale, numerous other individuals and companies were involved in the implementation and development of the Bakken Shale play. Mike Johnson’s initiative, insight and determination are at the heart of this on-going Bakken play in the North Dakota Williston Basin. His initial involvement in this play and his success with many other exploratory efforts over his career are the reasons why the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists is recognizing Michael S. Johnson with its Outstanding Explorer Award.