DENVER—Drilling oil in the Williston Basin has its share of challenges, but with those problems come great opportunities for the companies involved.
That was the main point made Tuesday by a number of speakers and panelists during the second day of the Second Annual Bakken Infrastructure Finance and Development Summit in downtown Denver.
Nearly 100 people were still waiting in the summit’s registration line as Continental Resources founder and CEO Harold Hamm began his morning keynote speech shortly after 8 a.m. Official attendance figures from organizers put the crowd at just shy of 350 people.
“A lot of people thought fossil fuels were going away,” Hamm told the crowd. “We’ve certainly seen a lot of changes.”
Those changes, he said, include a rig count of nearly 200 in North Dakota. Also, he said more people in the industry are starting to believe his company’s estimate that there may be more than 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil in North Dakota.
This is far above the most recent estimate from the North Dakota Geological Survey and Department of Mineral Resources released in 2010. Its report put the recoverable oil from the Bakken and Three Forks at a combined 4 billion barrels.
A major topic of discussion Tuesday morning was how to get this massive amount of product to market.
Panelist John Zimmerman, founder and managing member of Minot-based Intervention Energy, LLC, succinctly summarized one of the main challenges in the Williston Basin.
“Quality is not the issue, it’s getting it to market,” Zimmerman said.
Frank Lodzinski, CEO of Houston-based GeoResources, agreed. He said having pipeline or rail already near your drilling sites can make a huge difference.
“You’re going to cut your costs and you’ll be able to operate in the winter,” Lodzinski said.
Frontier Energy Group CEO Dan Eberhart said infrastructure and housing are also enormous concerns, particularly in northwest North Dakota.
“The power grid is stressed, the road infrastructure is stressed,” Eberhart said.
Eberhart gave McKenzie County as an example. He read off statistics reporting that McKenzie County needs approximately $168.9 million in repairs to paved roads and $27.6 million for gravel roads. Eberhart said this was amazing for a county with a population between 5-6,000 in 2000.
Zimmerman said many statistics such as these in the region, the opportunities for those that can find ways to get product to market are seemingly endless.
“The absolute scale of this is overwhelming,” Zimmerman said.
Cole Gustafson with North Dakota State University’s Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, later gave a presentation on the need to provide additional electrical power to meet industry needs.
Williston Economic Development sponsored a networking reception after the Tuesday’s portion of the summit concluded.
The conference concludes Wednesday with several local and state officials giving presentations and participating in panel discussions.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple will be Wednesday’s morning keynote speaker.
Local leaders to take part in panel discussions on Wednesday are Williston Economic Development Director Tom Rolfstad, Williston Workforce Development Coordinator Shawn Wenko, McKenzie County Jobs Development Authority Executive Director Gene Veeder, Williams County Planning and Zoning Administrator Jill Edson and Williston City Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk.