The Operator Mantra

Forget hydraulic fracturing or boomtowns, the story of the Bakken is about something completely different.
By The Bakken magazine staff | May 16, 2014

Forget hydraulic fracturing or boomtowns, the story of the Bakken is about something completely different. Although fracking technology and the economic boon in the Williston Basin are often cited as the reasons the Bakken has become globally recognized, the Bakken’s best-known operator has another perspective. Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources Inc., speaking at the DUG Bakken and Niobrara conference earlier this year, told the crowd that “we [operators] have changed the world.” The change, he said, has come through the advent of horizontal drilling, not hydraulic fracturing—a practice in use for many years. Hamm even urged other operators to work together to tell that story of horizontal drilling and its impact on shale energy development.

The entire Continental Resources team believes in the importance of telling the story of horizontal drilling. At an economic development event early this year, Blu Hulsey, vice president of government and regulatory affairs, provided a keynote address to a Minot, N.D.-crowd that included the same message as Hamm’s. “That [horizontal drilling] story is not being told,” he said, “about our ability to drill sideways.”
The importance of horizontal drilling can be explained through a chronologic look at some of the world’s greatest technologic advancements, according to Hamm, or through a billboard. Continental Resources has created billboards displaying four lines of text as follows: The Light Bulb. Flight. The Internet. Horizontal Drilling.

If the true importance of developing the shale energy industry—and telling the right story—is the main thing operators like Hamm are working to do, then answering the longevity question is second. During the same event that Hamm spoke at, Taylor Reid, CEO of Oasis Petroleum Inc., explained that he is constantly asked how long oil production and development will continue in the Williston Basin. For Reid, the easiest way to answer is with a baseball analogy. The Bakken “is still in the early innings,” he tells them. And, for Oasis, he usually says, it appears the game is just getting good.