BISMARCK – The CEO of Marathon Oil Corp. called for lifting the U.S. ban on crude oil exports Wednesday during his keynote address at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference.

“Lifting today’s crude oil exports restrictions would help strengthen the U.S. economy, foster job creation and promote the efficient development of the domestic energy sector,” said Lee Tillman.

The current ban threatens U.S. oil production because refineries have a limited capacity to process light, sweet crude such as the oil being produced from the Bakken, said Tillman, who leads one of the major companies operating in North Dakota.

Studies have shown that it would lower the price at the pump for American consumers, Tillman said.

“More production in the Bakken means more exports, less imports, greater energy security and greater economic security,” he said.

Reducing a backlog of federal drilling permit applications is critical for the industry, Tillman said. He complimented North Dakota’s federal delegation and said the right public policy paves the way for investment and new technology.

“As Congress considers the role of federal policies and regulations, we hope they will take cues from North Dakota,” Tillman said. “This state has a history of successful state-led regulations of oil and natural gas production.”

Marathon is working to reduce the amount of water used for oil and gas production. In the Eagle Ford formation in Texas, the company has reduced water use per well by 45 percent during hydraulic fracturing, he said.

In the Bakken, the water that is a byproduct of oil production has such high salinity that it makes recycling more challenging. But this year, Marathon will do field pilot testing of methods to conserve water. One test involves treating the wastewater so it can be used as a drilling fluid rather than injected into a disposal well.

“It’s a challenge, but we’re not giving up on it,” Tillman said.

Tillman outlined some of the benefits oil and gas development have brought to North Dakota, including 75,000 new jobs and more than $2.9 billion in oil and gas taxes recently paid to the state.

Also Wednesday, State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt announced that deposits into North Dakota’s Legacy Fund will exceed $2 billion this month.

At this pace, the fund is on schedule to receive $3 billion by the end of the 2013-15 biennium. Thirty percent of revenue from North Dakota’s oil and gas taxes are deposited into the Legacy Fund, which was created in 2010 by a vote of the people. State lawmakers can’t spend money from the Legacy Fund until July 1, 2017.

Tillman called for oil and gas companies to be mindful of the communities where they operate.

“We must be responsible corporate neighbors and never lose site of the fact that we are a guest in these communities,” he said.

The conference, which concludes Thursday, has attracted a record of more than 4,100 attendees.

Revenue from the conference will support geological exhibits at the North Dakota Heritage Center, support nonprofit organizations in western North Dakota and support scholarships for North Dakota students, Tillman said.

“We should all be very proud of the ways our industry is giving back,” Tillman said.