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Petroleum conference draws global interest

BISMARCK -- Tuesday was supposed to be a warm-up day for the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference. But by late afternoon, the total number of registrations passed 3,861 people and are expected to easily surpass 4,000 today and Thursday.

"We've had incredible interest," said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. "People have just been pouring in all day."

Participants represent 46 states and seven Canadian provinces. There also are people from Norway, Taiwan, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Turkey, France and Germany.

Sixty-seven media representatives are registered from local outlets, trade journals and some international press.

"It speaks to the fact that North Dakota is really becoming recognized as a place to come and do business," Ness said.

The conference, in its 20th year, rotates between North Dakota and Canada. When it was in Bismarck two years ago, it drew about 2,500 participants.

This year, the conference's 340 exhibition booths sold out in 17 minutes, Ness said.

Many attendees are from small businesses that are looking to grow their companies.

"Primarily, people are here to find their niche in the Bakken," Ness said.

Kenneth Young, field operations manager for Summit Energy in Williston, an oil field service company that started in a garage about two years ago, said he is networking and meeting potential customers.

"You can feel the energy in the room," Young said.

Representatives from Open Range Energy Services, a new company being launched from Scottsdale, Ariz., are attending the conference to learn about operating in North Dakota. Dawn Short, human resources manager, said their intent is to begin hydraulic fracturing in the Williston Basin.

"This is a fact-finding mission for me," Short said.

Casey Fladeland, who owns a trucking business in Stanley, said he is attending the conference to keep up with new technologies.

Workshops on geology, emerging technologies and oil investment were packed Tuesday while other participants networked in the exhibition hall.

A group of fourth-graders toured the conference's outdoor exhibits to see a pumping unit, and other oil field equipment and the living quarters for workers in the oil field.

The evening concluded with a barbecue and open bar sponsored by Halliburton followed by an after-party at Peacock Alley sponsored by Target Logistics, which operates temporary housing camps for oil field workers.

Today's events include presentations on the Bakken impact on the global oil supply and the state of American Energy.

On Thursday, a CEO panel will feature Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Jim Volker of Whiting Petroleum and Dave Roberts of Marathon Oil.

By then, thousands of T-shirts are expected to be sold with the conference theme "Bakken Gold: The best is yet to come."

Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch.