Optimism abounds at Great Plains Energy ExpoHarold Hamm says the pronouncements of the demise of the U.S. petroleum industry are premature.
By: Ryan Schuster, Prairie Business Magazine
Harold Hamm says the pronouncements of the demise of the U.S. petroleum industry are premature.
Hamm, the chairman and CEO of Continental Resources Inc., an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company, says U.S. oil reserves will last longer than many have projected. Hamm forecasted a strong future for the U.S. petroleum industry in the coming decades last month during an appearance at the Great Plains Energy Expo & Showcase at the Bismarck Civic Center.
“We’re not running out of oil and gas,” Hamm said during his speech at the conference. “We are having some of our biggest finds here in North Dakota. We’re able to get more oil out of the ground and reservoir today than ever before.”
The U.S. Geological Survey released a revised assessment in 2008 that estimated the Bakken formation holds between 3 billion and 4.3 billion barrels of oil that can be recovered in western North Dakota and eastern Montana using current technology — a 25-fold increase from its 1995 assessment of the Bakken. It is the U.S. Geological Survey’s highest current assessment of any oil field in the lower 48 states and the find is the largest continuous oil accumulation ever assessed by the agency, though the dense shale formation makes extracting oil from the formation more difficult and costly than more conventional plays.
“It is a big deal,” Hamm said of the Bakken, which he says could hold as much as twice the U.S. Geological Survey’s most recent figure. “It’s an unconventional resource play, but it’s oil and it’s very valuable at this point in time.”
Hamm cited improvements in technology, enhanced oil recovery techniques, horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and continual exploration efforts as reasons to be bullish on the oil industry’s future even as known world and U.S. oil reserves continue to be slowly depleted.
North Dakota recently passed Louisiana to become the nation’s fourth-highest oil producing state and the state is becoming more of a player in wind energy and other alternative energy sources.
U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota mentioned the recent oil boom in western North Dakota that has help buoy the state’s economy during the two-day event in Bismarck that also featured workshops and more than 50 energy-related exhibitors.
“North Dakota is becoming an energy powerhouse in its potential to be a worldwide leader for energy production,” Dorgan said. “We need to vigorously work to make these important investments to bring our energy to more areas in this country. We must also invest in ways to develop next generation energy technologies and use our energy resources more efficiently with less carbon emissions.”
Dorgan said at the energy expo that tax incentives for alternative energy need to be extended for longer periods of time and not be allowed to expire, to allow for more long-term investment. He also said that a modern national electricity grid needs to be constructed to allow the state’s vast wind resources to be transferred to areas where it is needed.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said during the conference that the nation needs to form a new energy policy that will continue the country’s push into alternative energy, reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, create millions of jobs and reduce pollution. But Salazar said that traditional energy sources like fossil fuels and coal will still play key roles in the future.
“We are at the beginning of a new energy frontier,” he said. “We will capture the power of the wind and the sun and power our economy. A comprehensive energy plan needs to look at the new frontier and renewable energy, but it also has to look at oil and natural gas and how we move forward with coal. The fact remains that oil, natural gas and coal are a very important part of our energy portfolio and they will continue to be important parts of our energy future.”
But Salazar said global climate change and the need to reduce pollution will also be addressed. He said carbon capture and sequestration holds potential for helping to improve coal’s environmental footprint and said the Department of the Interior has plans for large-scale carbon capture demonstration projects on public lands.
“We have to figure out ways of capturing carbon while it is going through the coal burning process,” he said. “We also need to look at enhanced oil recovery and injecting it into oil fields.”
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