Burgum highlights oil industry resurgence, state’s workforce needs at Williston Basin Petroleum Conference

Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - 3:00pm

BISMARCK, N.D. (May 23, 2018) – Gov. Doug Burgum today highlighted the innovation that’s driving a resurgence in North Dakota’s oil industry and making the region ripe for investment, while also citing the state’s significant workforce needs during his remarks to the 26th annual Williston Basin Petroleum Conference.

“You had the courage to step up and risk your own capital, investing in innovation at a time when others in the world thought they could put this basin and others like it out of business through dropping the price (of crude oil),” Burgum told industry members at the Bismarck Event Center. “This group lowered their breakeven. This group innovated. And for that we have an enormous amount of gratitude because you’re not only transforming North Dakota, you’re transforming the nation.”

North Dakota remains the nation’s No. 2 oil producing state, drawing more than 1.16 million barrels per day from a record 14,457 wells in March – despite having less than a third as many active drilling rigs as four years ago. Later this year, production is expected to surpass the record of 1.23 million barrels per day set in December 2014.

Producers are poised to unlock millions and even billions more barrels of oil through enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods, Burgum said. Last week the state Industrial Commission, which the governor chairs, approved a $3 million Oil and Gas Research Program grant for a $6 million public-private project aimed at revitalizing the state’s conventional oil fields through EOR, specifically underground injection of carbon dioxide to squeeze more oil from shale formations.

North Dakota also is producing record amounts of natural gas and currently has five natural gas processing plants under development, which will help the state achieve its gas capture goals, Burgum noted. During U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to North Dakota this week, the governor advocated for streamlining the federal permitting process to allow for faster installation of gas gathering pipelines and other infrastructure on federal and tribal lands.

With crude prices currently at their highest level in over four years, Burgum said there’s reason for optimism. But he emphasized the state’s workforce shortage is limiting economic growth and creating challenges for oil and gas operators and businesses statewide, with more than 14,700 online job listings and the nation’s second-lowest unemployment rate at 2.6 percent.

“We’re competing for labor all over the country, and we understand that to attract and retain workforce, we need to create healthy, vibrant communities with smart, efficient infrastructure, which is the focus of our Main Street Initiative,” the governor said, adding the state also has a shortage of single-family housing. “North Dakota is open for business. We’ve got jobs, we’ve got opportunities, and we’d love to have the workers and the investment to help us build those communities.”

Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford also joined Zinke and state legislators today on a tour of the McClusky Canal and Snake Creek Pumping Plant near Coleharbor, stressing their importance to proposed water projects such as the Red River Valley Water Supply Project, which would provide supplemental water to central and eastern North Dakota during times of water scarcity.

Burgum thanked Zinke for spending so much time in North Dakota on issues and opportunities around land, minerals, water and parks. Zinke’s visit included a tour of Theodore Roosevelt National Park with Burgum and Sanford; a meeting with members of the state’s American Indian tribes; and discussions in which Zinke, a former congressman from Montana, voiced support for a proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library at Medora.

The three-day Williston Basin Petroleum Conference concludes Thursday. The conference is presented by the North Dakota Petroleum Council, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, Saskatchewan's Ministry of the Economy and the Petroleum Technology Research Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. Bismarck and Regina take turns hosting the annual conference.