Williston Basin Petroleum Conference 2013

Highlights from the event of the year
By The Bakken magazine staff | May 24, 2013

Parking spots near the entrance of Evraz Place, the site for the 2013 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Regina, Saskatchewan, were all taken during the event, held April 30 through May 2. Occupying the premium spaces were drilling rig equipment, flameless heaters and demonstrations of a handful of other sparkling-clean devices. In its 21st year, the WBPC also showcased impressive equipment and 300-plus vendors in the exhibit hall and provided expert perspective on the intricacies of the geological formations within the Williston Basin through numerous speaker presentations,  updates from the play’s leading voices and incentive to attend the 22nd version of the event.

The Setting
The combination of high-end appetizers, an open bar and casually dressed industry representatives made the opening night event in the exhibit hall a difficult place to hold a quiet conversation. Registration lines for the first hour stretched past the hall entrance, with 30-plus attendees in five or more lines. A handful of next-day speakers visited in the VIP lounge, and a jazz band strolled the exhibit floor, providing background music for company representatives. Innovation was in evidence everywhere, seen in every aisle.

Videos of innovative new drill bit technology played, accompanied by a physical display of the bit that the viewer could touch while seeing it in action. Attendees could stand within inches of a massive oil storage tank equipped with the latest monitoring technology. Vendors showcased products ranging from the basic and rugged: well site protective matting and fireproof clothing, to the precise and pricey: geographical imagery systems and consulting services.

The Chatter
After spending more than three hours the first night discussing industry issues and learning about new technology from several of the event’s vendors and representatives, our magazine team left in agreement on one thing: attendees at the show were there to do business. Joe Pendland Jr. and his team from Quality Mat Co., a Texas-based well site protective mat provider, offered perspective that seemed to speak for many at the show. “We have made a substantial investment in the Bakken because it is a long-term deal,” he said.

Alison Ritter, public information officer for the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, speaking in place of Lynn Helms, DMR director, helped explain why the play presents companies like Penland and others with long-term security. During her second-day presentation to the massive crowd in the general assembly hall, Ritter told the crowd that in 2013, the DMR has permitted 6,000 new Bakken wells, more than what has been drilled in the region to date.

The DMR is adding 23 new staff members, which is important to its efforts in tracking the state of the Bakken, she said. “We want to develop this play in the most organized way. If we give a really good estimate of all that goes on in the Bakken, we can really help communities plan.”

The DMR booth displayed a large well-site location map of the Bakken, which Ritter coined the “Shades of Grey,” map. “It tells where exciting areas are and where production is going,” she said.

Ritter wasn’t the only industry voice tasked with updating attendees on the state of the Bakken. Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, spoke about the challenges and opportunities for everyone involved with the Bakken. Although daycare services, road infrastructure, electrical power supply and landowner fatigue related to easement paperwork are all challenges in the play, the biggest challenge is flaring, he said. “No matter who comes to North Dakota,” from National Geographic to Time Magazine, he explained, “images on the cover are always the flare, and that is really not the story of the Bakken.”

The story is instead about the effects of the long-term activity created by oil and gas retrieval. Activity in the Bakken is creating jobs and aiding in the resurgence of rural communities. “Investors and people coming to the Bakken know it,” he said. Ness reminded the crowd of new diesel refineries planned for N.D., a natural gas-based ammonia plant planned in eastern N.D. and other major infrastructure projects, all of which will help to diversify and expand the Bakken economy.

The Big News
Ness highlighted a handful of bills that will impact the Bakken, and Ritter confirmed that the number of drilling rigs in the Bakken will level off at 180 to 185 rigs in the next year. In total, the conference featured roughly 40 informative and technical presentations. But, for all of the buzz created by companies at the show doing business or the perspective from Ness, Ritter and members from the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Economy, nothing could’ve matched the U.S. Geological Survey’s release during the event. The Bakken and Three Forks formations are more than double the size thought in 2008,  the USGS announced during the show. Considering that booth space for this show sold out in roughly 30 minutes, and the news and buzz, the 2014 conference should be another event of the year. It will be held May 20-22, in Bismarck.