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Faster, better oil wells bringing more life to Bakken, oil companies tell legislative panel

Kevin Ruffatto, North Dakota region director with Enbridge, speaks to legislators and others at a tour of Minot oil companies Wednesday. Submitted photo

MINOT, N.D.—There's a lot of oil wells still to be drilled in the Bakken, according to the director of Hess operations in North Dakota.

Brent Lohnes with Hess in Minot spoke to legislators and others at the Minot meeting of the North Dakota Legislature's Energy Development and Transmission Committee Wednesday.

Hess' 2017 net production in the Bakken has been 105,000 barrels a day, which Lohnes said could grow to 175,000 barrels in a couple of years.

The company is looking at adding more drilling rigs next year to deliver about 100 new wells, increasing production by about 10 percent.

Part of what continues to make the Bakken attractive are efficiencies gained since 2010 that make it less costly and more productive to drill, Lohnes said. The drilling cycle time has dropped from an average of 50 days to just 15 days, while initial well production is up more than 300 percent.

"Not only are they faster but they are better quality wells," Lohnes said. "It puts us in a great position to continue to operate here for many, many years. Even at the lower oil prices, we are still economic.

"North Dakota is the crown jewel for Hess," he added. "So we are highly focused and have a lot of energy around the Bakken."

The legislative committee began two days of meetings in Minot Wednesday with tours at Hess, Cameron Surface Systems, Enbridge and Baker Hughes.

Brett Tinnes with the Minot's Bakken Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute, a national trade association, reported on an API survey that showed oil-related companies choose Minot primarily for its central location but also for the quality of life and support services.

Minot City Manager Tom Barry told the committee Minot continues to fit the description of a hub city in the oil patch.

"The Bakken would look very different if it were not for the city of Minot," he said. "We do have dozens upon dozens of companies that are deep in that business. These companies call Minot home."

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