Executing on Theme

By Luke Geiver | July 15, 2015

Given the challenges fluctuating oil prices have created for E&Ps, why would Gary Gould, a 25-year-plus oil industry veteran and vice president of operations for one of the Williston Basin’s most prolific operators, add to his duties and put himself in the middle of a national debate? He is beyond busy, overseeing drilling, completion and production segments for Continental Resources Inc.––and Harold Hamm, Continental’s CEO, is already working hard in Washington, D.C., and with national media to get out the message. Convinced that future economic opportunities for Continental and the U.S. are linked to the production of U.S. crude, however, Gould is working to get the truth out about the connection between U.S.-based oil producers and a decades-long ban on the export of crude oil to be told.

Our conversation for the story, “Focused on the Ban,” on page 38, included talk of drilling achievements, enhanced completion designs and the need for new artificial lifts as a result of increased production per well—Continental expects to produce 25 to 45 percent more oil per well in the Williston Basin with new completion designs. Each time the subject of lifting the crude oil export ban came up, Gould stated the same view, helping explain why Gould and Continental are in the thick of the export debate. “The bottom line is that it [the export ban] doesn’t as much impact the quality of the work we do day-to-day, but it does impact the quantity of the work we can perform,” he said. Read how oil refining and U.S. storage capacity combine with gas prices to further complicate the debate. Gould found the time to share his perspective on how it —Continental, energy service firms, refiners (foreign and local), world gas prices, and U.S. consumers—are all connected.

Nonoperators and shale-focused energy investors understand what it means to be connected to the Bakken. As oil prices have fluctuated, each industry entity has had to tweak drilling and completion schedules and alter oilfield development plans. Both non-op firms we spoke with this month said that low oil prices have, and can, actually be an opportunity in disguise. Split Rock Trading, the small-team, small-town investment firm that has succeeded with its North American Shale Energy account and its ties to the Bakken, offered a similar view. And, although the near-term opportunity of investing in segments of the Bakken will be hampered by what Split Rock’s talented analysts believe will be another downturn in oil prices, Split Rocks says the cliché investment philosophy of thinking long-term will truly pay off when oil prices recover further next year and the good names start to look great.

Few would argue that Hess Corp. should be—if it isn’t already—included in the great class. Reading Patrick Miller’s inside look at Hess’s approach to developing the Bakken, “Leaning in the Right Direction,” on page 56,  it is easy to see why Hess is a shining star in the Williston Basin. As Alf Tischler, manager of completion operations told Miller, the Bakken-focused team has worked hard the past five years to implement a lean-manufacturing approach to everything it does in the Bakken, from sending trucks out to scheduling service work to completing a well. The economic results of the work have been undeniably successful and today, Hess is bringing some of the best Bakken wells online every month at an incredibly low price point. Tischler and Gerbert Schoonman, vice president of Hess’ Bakken assets, both credit the success to constant lean-approach focus within the Hess team and the entities it works with. “You create an army of problem solvers out there,” Tischler says. “All of a sudden, you see effectiveness and efficiency improvements all over the field so fast that you can’t even catch up with the savings.”

Our team is excited for you to have the July issue in-hand or on your screen. Our theme this month was to provide operator updates and, as this issue shows, we’re connecting you with a wide range of perspectives, each playing out their own themes in the Bakken this summer. Enjoy the read.

Luke Geiver
The Bakken magazine