Oil prices were hovering around $100 per barrel the last time the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference was hosted in Bismarck, North Dakota in 2014.
The conference alternates between Saskatchewan and Bismarck each year, and in 2014 its attendees were sent back into the oil patch with the tagline “The best is yet to come.” Fast forward to 2016, over a year into the oil price collapse, and the Bakken remains alive and well.
But development in the Williston Basin has shifted. The dust kicked up from the frenzied resource dash of the Bakken’s boom days has settled into the harvesting phase. The U.S. rig count is at historic lows and North Dakota’s largest oil producer, Whiting Petroleum, has no plans to drill or complete new wells in 2016. But with changing circumstance and uncertainty there is also opportunity.
Putting the Bakken’s best foot forward
“Shale development is still very new, and there are new technologies and techniques that help make development cleaner, safer and more efficient. We consider North Dakota to be the learning curve for the world in responsible, technology and solutions-driven oil development,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
The 2016 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference will corral industry leaders, lawmakers, and anyone else with an interest in the Bakken under one roof at the Bismarck Event Center. This year offers an eclectic mix of presentations including future industry outlooks, business strategies, emerging technologies, community impacts, infrastructure developments, and an array of technical presentations examining the details of the tech and methods used in the Bakken (For a full list of the WBPC agenda, click here).
“Our approach has always been to invite regulators and other stakeholders to join us in working together to encourage innovation and learning to make North Dakota the premier example of a modern oilfield, and this conference is just one way that we seek to accomplish that,” Ness added.
The conference that gave birth to the Bakken
When the conference was first held in 1993 only 200 people attended. In its beginnings, it was called the Hydraulic Fracturing Symposium. The focus was on the emerging technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that would eventually tap the vast reserves locked within the Bakken and Three Forks formations.
In 2014 the Bismarck conference had over 4,200 total registrants, 530 exhibitor booths and 150 sponsors. From its humble start over three decades ago, the conference has become a worldwide attraction. Domestically, the last Bismarck conference was attended by people from every state (including Washington D.C.) except Hawaii. Internationally, attendees came from six Canadian provinces and nine countries, including China, Norway, France, Nigeria and Australia.
But despite its global draw, event organizers at the North Dakota Petroleum Council do expect to see a lull in attendance when compared to previous years. However, those attending are the key decision makers driving and leading continued development in the Bakken.
Industry booms and busts
At last year’s conference in Saskatchewan, President of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists Tony Cadrin testified to his experience with the boom and bust cycles the industry has experienced since 1986.
“Our industry has survived each and every one [of the cycles] and come out stronger through optimization and innovation,” Cadrin said, as reported by The Bakken Magazine. He continued, “What came out of this price shock was that the industry started to improve technology. They developed a much more reliable method of directional drilling.”
Much like the NDPC’s annual meeting, the 2016 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference will spotlight the innovation driving development in the Bakken in today’s market climate. Although the market has dictated the renewed focus on innovation, companies are routinely finding new ways to maximize efficiencies by using inventive technologies, transforming the Bakken into a world-class proving ground.
Key players and keynotes
As one might expect of the largest Bakken conference in the nation, the agenda is packed with presenters ranging from law makers, to industry leaders, researchers, and even political commentators.
In 2014 the WBPC hosted conservative radio and television host Sean Hannity as its key-note speaker.
Commenting on the importance of energy independence and the Bakken’s role in the U.S. economy, Hannity told the crowd, “You have shown the country the way, I just hope that America is wise and smart enough to follow North Dakota,” reports the Associated Press.
This year’s keynote speaker will focus on coaching a team when it counts, whether it be a team of engineers, policy makers, or roughnecks.
Among the oil men and women of the conference, former Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz will take the stage on the final day of the conference.
Holtz is the only coach in history of college football to take six different teams to a bowl game, win five bowl games with different teams and have four different college teams ranked in the final Top 20 poll.
But beyond receiving expert coaching advice from one of the best, the agenda is packed with speakers from many different backgrounds. Below are some of the most notable speakers that will present at the conference (For a full list of 2016 WBPC presenters, click here):
- Lou Holtz – Former football coach for the University of Notre Dame
Topic: Coaching when it counts
- Jay Ottoson — President and Chief Executive Officer of SM Energy
Topic: Telling our story – A strategic imperative
- Rick Muncrief — President and Chief Executive Officer of WPX Energy
Topic: Unique assets – The Permian Basin vs. The Bakken
- Jim Volker — President and Chief Executive Officer of Whiting Petroleum
Topic: The Bakken at current oil prices
- Don Hrap — President for the Lower 48 Division for ConocoPhillips
Topic: Uncertainty [or] Business as usual
- Gerbert Schoonman — Vice President of Onshore Bakken Assets for Hess Corp.
Topic: Bakken efficiencies
- John Gerdes – Managing Director and Head of Research for KLR Group
Topic: Oil markets and price outlook
Although the horizon might not look as bright as it did in 2014, the best is still yet to come. But exactly what the future holds for the Bakken remains uncertain. However, as NDPC President Ron Ness points out, “The Bakken is a world-class resource. Many CEOs consider the Bakken to be the number one or two best domestic resource in their play books.”
The second largest oil formation in the U.S. will continue to prove its worth, not only in the resources extracted, but by becoming a testing ground for new and improved extraction methods. Since 1992 the Bakken region has been ground zero for hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, and it seems this will remain true well into the foreseeable future.
“There is a large upside for improved oil recovery technology and the better production decline rates and the large oil ratio per barrel makes Bakken crude attractive at higher oil prices. This is going to be a huge focus of this conference and key components in moving the Bakken forward,” Ness said.
For more information about how to secure your admission to the 2016 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, visit the 2016 WBPC Bakken Forward registration page by click here.