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Experts discuss North Dakota oil possibilities

Several dozen area residents and officials gathered to hear just what is going on in the state's oil patch during a Town Hall meeting at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson Wednesday afternoon.

Helms

Several dozen area residents and officials gathered to hear just what is going on in the state's oil patch during a Town Hall meeting at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson Wednesday afternoon.

"... many great opportunities for all of us North Dakotans with this Bakken play," said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. "I think we all recognize the influx of people, the influx of wealth and the influx of potential is somewhat of a renaissance for North Dakota."

Multiple Town Hall meetings were held this week and the information gathered via surveys and discussion is used to help determine what to do with the state's resources and in advocacy work with counties and state officials in trying to "figure out how to manage this Bakken play," Ness said.

"The industry has changed a lot over the past 30 years ... as yesterday (Tuesday) was announced that we met or exceeded the all-time drilling rig count of 148 drilling rigs in October of 1981 and certainly something that I don't think most of us ever thought that we would see again," Ness said.

Ness recapped several actions officials have been taking to ensure safety in the state's oil patch and just what is being done to gear Legislators up for the next session.

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Fifty state legislators and two university presidents attended an oil tour in Stanley and Ness said he feels it was an "eye-awakening experience for them."

"You really can't understand the magnitude of what's going on until you get out on the ground you see a drilling rig you see the traffic," Ness said.

Ballots on the upcoming election will have an option to vote for or against the state's proposed Legacy Fund, or a decision on what to do with the state's oil wealth.

"This is not an oil issue," Ness said, "it's a North Dakota issue."

Ness said it's estimated the state will generate more than $1 billion a year in production tax revenues going forward.

The proposal is 30 percent of the state's share of the oil tax money be placed into a trust fund.

"That would make these oil wells last forever because then can we begin to earn interest off the principle and the interest will continue to provide funding for goods and services," Ness said, adding it isn't determined what would be funded.

Ness said the measure could help eliminate the state's "boom and bust cycle."

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"I think this is something we absolutely have to do," he said. "We should have done it the 50s. We should have done it in the 80s and we have not done it thus far during this boom."

Kathleen Neset, a geologist and owner of Neset Consulting Service in Tioga, said the Three Forks Formation, which is present in Stark County, is about 370 million years old.

Neset said the Bakken play is the largest in the lower 48 states, citing it as a "technology play."

"We knew the oil was there, now it's a matter of making it work with the technology," Neset said.

However, the federal government has something in the works that, if approved, could paralyze North Dakota's oil patch.

Hydraulic fracturing, a high-pressure tactic used to extract oil from rock formations, is at the heart of developing the Bakken Formation.

Lynn Helms, director of the state's Department of Mineral Resources, said it has been proposed that the Environmental Protection Agency be put in charge of hydraulic fracturing.

Helms said the state's geology is much different than others and North Dakota's regulations are much more stringent than others.

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"We know how to take care of our resources in North Dakota," he said, adding protection of groundwater resources is the number one priority. "We've been doing it for a long time."

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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