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Continental Oil is pushing out boundaries of what is profitable in the Bakken

BILLINGS, Mont. — Americans haven’t talked about their country as the greatest oil country in the world, but they need to, Continental Oil’s Blu Hulsey told a crowd of oil and gas industry professionals, who gathered in Billings, Montana on Wednesday, Aug. 28, for the annual MPA Conference.

Hulsey is Continental Oil’s Sr. Vice President for HSE and Government and Regulatory Affairs.

Hulsey doubled down on Continental Oil’s recent estimates that there are actually 30 to 40 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken.

That’s four to five times larger than the government’s most recent estimates.

“We think the total Bakken is a huge field as far as the world is concerned,” Hulsey said.

Meanwhile, Hulsey said recovery rates in shale plays continue to grow. They used to be around 3 percent but are now more like 20 percent.

“There’s still oil you’re leaving in the ground,” Hulsey said. “But your recovery factor is that much more.”

America’s shale revolution, in which the Bakken is a big player, is changing the whole dynamic of where the United States is as a country.

“We have this amazing resource, but we don’t talk about it,” he said. “We don’t talk about ourselves as the greatest oil country in the world, and we need to.”

Continental is continuing to run six rigs in the Bakken, and represents 14 percent of its overall production.

“We are consistent with those rigs, and we have about four to five stimulation crews,” Hulsey said. “That is where our sweet spot is.”

Hulsey showed graphs of type curves for well production that show how return on investment is both coming in sooner and getting larger.

“That gets us to a reasonable rate of return at lower costs,” Hulsey said.

That’s not thanks to 2015 technology, though, Hulsey added.

“If we were using 2015 technology, we wouldn’t be doing those (wells),” he said. “The stimulation has changed, the speed has changed.”

And technology is continuing to advance.

“We are still getting better with our units and development,” he added. “Three of our top 10 units came in 2019.”

In the last three years, the company had a little more than 150 wells that hit the 100,000 barrel mark in the first 90 days of operation.

“Really, that is the consistent rate you are producing,” he said. “You have consistent rock throughout the play, even in Richland County.”

With the latter comment, Hulsey was referring in particular to a step-out area in Richland County, Montana.

Hulsey showed a slide with three step-outs including the one in Richland County that he said the company believes will continue to be economically viable long-term.

“We will continue to look at Richland County for that type of development,” he said.

Wells in the three step-outs shown in the slide are outperforming legacy wells, some by 100 percent, or more Hulsey said.

“We are looking at sand, the length of perforations and all of those things that allow us to really bring that production forward and make it a much more valuable play,” he said.

Hulsey said the company is also working out a new spacing unit for Richland County. That is still underway.

The new approach will minimize surface impacts and reduce the costs of necessary surface equipment, Hulsey said.

“We appreciate the Conservation Commission and everyone who worked with us on this, and I think that is what is going to continue the great things that are going on in Richland County,” Hulsey said.

The Long Creek unit in Williams County, meanwhile, will have almost $450 million invested in what will be a 10-section unit.

The first production is expected from it in 2020.

“We’ll be piping our oil and gas — it is just north of the river – so it is an environmentally sensitive area that we are paying attention to,” he said. “It is an absolute oil machine out there, and it will be just fantastic to see that when it is fully developed.”

There’s been a lot of buzz in the oilfield world about the Permian, Hulsey said, but the Bakken has good talking points, too.

“You have to have something to tell your Texas friends,” he joked, “because they will not stop talking about Texas.”

Among the talking points he suggested is the large amount of water the Permian gets with its oil.

“We have a high oil cut and low water,” Hulsey said. “The Permian is pushing out a lot of water, and they’re having to figure out what to do with it. We don’t have that here, and it helps with the cost of production here.”

Another Bakken talking point, Hulsey suggested, is the sheer size of the Bakken.

On a power point, Hulsey showed the Bakken is geographically as large an area as both the Delaware and the Permian Basins side by side.

Hulsey expressed confidence that with the current administration more infrastructure can quickly be laid that will help power up the future of the industry.

“We need to do it now,” he said. “We have an administration that is not stopping development in this country. We need to talk about long-term development and what we will be doing in these areas.”

The oil industry has faced some challenges in the marketplace. But the industry has responded by getting better.

“It is the American ingenuity in this room,” he said. “And it is truly making a difference with what has happened in America. We are just going to continue to get better.”

Summer Nights on Main wraps up for the season in Downtown Williston

The Williston Downtowners said farewell to summer with their final Summer Nights on Main event on Thursday, Aug. 29.

The Kid and Nic Show hit the stage as the event’s farewell musical act, playing songs that got the crowd up and on their feet, and even led a few audience members in a dance to the hit song “Happy.”

Food vendors lined the street as the crowd took the opportunity to have some of their favorite treats before the event wraps up for the year.

Members of the Tetons basketball team wandered about, handing out Teton and Williston State College swag to those in attendance.

Summer Nights kicked off in July, and has brought in musical acts from across the region to perform every Thursday Downtown.

The final street fair was also a chance for those attending the North Dakota Downtown Conference to check out an event in action in Williston’s Downtown.

The conference wrapped up Thursday afternoon with a tour of the Downtown, with Summer Nights capping off the night with some great food and entertainment, showing off what Williston has to offer.

Williams County tax estimates on their way to tax payers — but don't pay the bill yet

Letters from Williams County are headed to mailboxes containing an estimate of what each Williams County property taxpayer is likely to owe at the end of the year.

The amounts are estimates at this point, not actually bills, and should not yet be paid. The amounts that will be shown in these estimates could still adjust downward, but, by law, cannot increase at this point.

While these tax estimates come from Williams County, the estimate includes amounts that are levied by other entities, which the county doesn’t actually control, such as public school districts.

The county puts all the taxing entities together on one statement so that residents don't receive tax bills from multiple entities at the end of the year.

Each entity will have its own public hearing, if  levying more than $100,000, before the tax bills are finalized.

It’s important that the public understands this distinction, Williams County Chairman David Montgomery said during a meeting Thursday, Aug. 29, to go over the mill levy values and run through all of the estimates before they are sent out.

Too often, Montgomery said, he has seen taxpayers show up at Williams County’s mill levy hearing to comment on a completely different entity’s tax increase.

“People need to understand that they have an opportunity to share their concerns with all of the taxing entities,” he said. “All of (the ones levying at least $100,000) are having a public hearing.”

The dates and times of all these hearings will be printed on the estimate documents that will be going out in the mail by Aug. 31.

Williams County Commissioner Barry Ramberg said the state is now requiring school districts to reach a 60 mill levy.

“They’re not there yet, but they can only increase 12 percent a year,” he said. “So they’ve been going up the full limit until they get to 60 mills.”

That’s going to result in “humongous” increases for some districts, Montgomery said.

Williams County, meanwhile, has tried to keep its mill levies as low as possible, Montgomery said.

The general fund mill levy will stay at 8.69 — although an increase in taxable valuation means the actual amount raised by that levy will increase, to $3.219 million from $3.10 million.

Michael Vosburg • Forum News Service  

For the healthiest lawn, synchronize its care with the natural cycles of grass growth.

Submitted photo  

These seven Williston Coyote runners all placed in the top 10 of the Bowman Invite on Thursday, Aug. 29. Left to right: Micade Shumway, Fynn Krenz, Gunnar Alvarado, Wil Olson, James Powers, Tyrel Ackman, Gavin Jorgensen.

Jury convicts man of drug trafficking charges

A jury deliberated for about two hours on Thursday, Aug. 29, before returning a guilty verdict for a man accused of 17 drug charges.

Archie Mooney, 55, was convicted of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of heroin with intent to deliver, both class A felonies, three class B felony counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, two class C felony and four misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and six misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance.

The verdict came at the end of a four-day trial.

Mooney was arrested in December and accused of being a high-level drug dealer. During the trial, the prosecution claimed that ledgers and other documents found in Mooney’s home pointed to hundreds of thousands of dollars brought in from the sale of drugs and paid out to others.

Nathan Madden, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, told jurors they should look at the evidence. He said the presences of large amounts of cash, as well as more than 170 grams of heroin, about 200 grams of marijuana, more than 70 grams of methamphetamine and other drugs showed that Mooney was a drug dealer.

“The state showed you massive amounts of drugs for this area that no end user would have,” Madden said. “They simply can’t afford it.”

Madden also pointed to firearms found in the home, including one rifle police and prosecutors believe was traded for drugs. He asked the jurors to remember the number of small plastic bags found in the home, indicating that drugs were being packaged there.

Kalli Hoffman, Mooney’s public defender, suggested there were other possible explanations for nearly everything found in the home. She argued that it isn’t illegal for people to keep money or guns in their home.

She also pointed out that during a multi-month investigation, no police officer saw Mooney sell drugs.

She said that fact, along with the fact that many of the notes found on money and in ledgers around the home were in the same handwriting suggested it was possible Michelle Moore, who was Mooney’s girlfriend and also lived in the home, could have been responsible.

“Mr. Mooney is here today being charged with the crimes his significant other committed,” Hoffman said.

Mooney faces more than 80 years in prison after the conviction. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

Moore is scheduled to go to trial on the same charges on Sept. 23.

ND state rules to remain amid proposed federal rollback of methane regulations

BISMARCK — North Dakota will continue regulating methane emissions even after the Trump administration announced plans to ease oil and gas rules, a state official said Thursday, Aug. 29.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the proposal to revise the Obama-era standards follows a directive from President Donald Trump to review burdensome energy regulations. His agency estimated the changes could save the oil and gas industry as much as $123 million through 2025.

The move was welcomed by Republican lawmakers from North Dakota, the country’s No. 2 oil producer.

“This proposed rule maintains health and environmental protections while eliminating duplicative regulations which increase compliance costs for producers that get passed along to consumers,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said in a statement.

The EPA said the proposal would rescind emissions limits for methane, a contributor to climate change, but the agency said it would keep in place standards for volatile organic compounds.