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ND oil conference popular

BISMARCK (AP) -- Booth space for an annual conference in North Dakota oil country went quickly after registration opened Wednesday morning, officials said.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said all 300 available booths for the 20th annual Williston Basin Petroleum Conference and Expo were spoken for within 17 minutes. About 650 people were waiting online to sign up, he said.

The event is scheduled May 22 to May 24 in Bismarck. Officials are expecting a record crowd of at least 3,500 people to attend, some of whom will stay in college dormitories or hotels up to 75 miles away.

The expo has grown because of production and interest in the Bakken shale formation, which encompasses some 25,000 square miles within the Williston Basin in North Dakota and Montana. The last event in 2010 drew about 2,800 people from 37 states and five countries, Ness said.

About 2,500 motel rooms in the area have been booked, some for as long as two years, Ness said.

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