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Brock: Much can be learned about oil industry in a day

I attended the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck on Wednesday.

This year’s theme is Bakken Strong and the main three areas of focus were economy, technology and opportunity. Technology was what blew me away at last year’s conference in Regina, Saskatchewan.

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Driving home last spring, I realized that with all the technological advances there was no doubt that this was truly a long-term, world class oil play that was going continue for decades. Nothing that has happened since has lessened that belief. In fact, after this year’s conference, I think the development will be even bigger.

Opportunity is the word that kept running through my mind as I listened to world-class, expert presenters and talked to vendors.

Bakken development is poised to take the next step, much like farmers from simply harvesting to looking to enhancing their commodities into value-added products that create more opportunities for increased probability.

The reduced flaring requirements and the abundant gases that were flared off have the potential to be converted to all forms of value-added products, including propylene, which is used in products from plastic milk jugs to auto parts.

Rajeev Gautam, chief executive officer of Honeywell’s UOP unit, recently reported that propylene is in short supply and a total of 14 million metric tons of new annual capacity is needed by 2016 as oil refineries produce less of the chemical.

The abundance of flared natural gas would serve as the feed for propylene chemical plants built in our state and would take the financial benefits of the Bakken to unimaginable levels.

Improving drilling and recovery methods will continue to grow the amount harvested, which could be shipped to plants built in our state via pipelines.

The raw plastic created at the plants could be shipped by rail economically where it is really needed in the Midwest plastic plants. There is no limit to the things that are built with plastic and the markets for our natural gas.

The Bakken oil development has had a historic impact on the economy of our state and nation.

The only limit for continued growth is failing to realize the opportunity. Much like agriculture, creating larger markets for oil commodities spurs research, development and improved practices.

Lifting embargoes on exporting oil will not only increase the market but would reduce the trade deficit, and improve our national economy and security.

Like it or not, the oil play is here to stay and the 4,200 people who attended the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference understand the unprecedented economic opportunity as well as the need to be good stewards of the environment and support the communities where they operate.

I left Bismarck wishing everyone in our country, including folks from Congress and the White House, could attend this event and experience the optimism of this industry.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at