WILLISTON - If you drilled it, they will come. Especially if that drilling was successful.
That seemed to be an underlying theme Tuesday as more than 150 oil industry "stakeholders" gathered in Williston for the "Building the Williston Basin Summit."
The summit presented an opportunity for said stakeholders meaning basically anyone with a stake in what is happening in the oilfield during the current "boom" cycle to gather and discuss issues in an effort to improve communications between all "sides" of the issues.
Dave Caldwell/MDN •
North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven addresses an audience of more than 150 at the “Building the Williston Basin Summit” Tuesday in Williston. Hoeven outlined his plans on energy development and his proposed budget.
"This is a unique and challenging period," said Williston Mayor Ward Koeser. "We're very excited about the opportunities ahead."
Jack Olson from the North Dakota Department of Transportation addressed the new strains being placed on the highway systems by increased heavy traffic.
More than 90 percent of the drilling sites are more than one-quarter mile away from a state highway, he said, and 65 percent of products leaving the sites are transported by truck. Each well, he said, can require 150 to 230 truckloads of water and 24 to 48 truckloads of sand to drill. In addition, the wells produce as much as 10 times more salt water than oil during drilling. That waste water must be transported away from the site. In 2007, oil and gas related truckloads of oil from 800 wells produced more than 1.68 million truckloads a whopping 4,605 per day.
All that is currently being transported over a highway system largely designed in the 1950s.
"When we talk about truck numbers, it's not only more trucks, they're also larger and heavier trucks," Olson said. He said one 100,000-pound, five-axle truck has the same impact as 27,000 automobiles.
"We're approaching 4 million movements a year on our roadways by truckloads," Olson said, referring to manufacturing, agriculture and oil industries combined.
Also speaking at the conference was Gov. John Hoeven, who outlined highlights from the budget he recently proposed to the Legislature. He said the state's $1.2 billion surplus much of it derived from oil production taxes would be best used for property and tax relief, and espoused North Dakota as an emerging energy superpower with its wind and coal production.
Hoeven also showed off a new "Pumped on Parshall" T-shirt, which he said would make a nice ensemble with his "Rockin' the Bakken" hat.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., also spoke to the conference via telephone from Washington, D.C.
Dorgan said conversations are under way to make the Fort Berthold Reservation a "one-stop shop" for oil and gas production, bringing relief from prior policies he called "bureaucratic, boneheaded and cumbersome."
The largely positive vibes continued until after lunch, when Greg Boschee, a Mountrail County commissioner, told the audience that drastic steps need to be taken to improve funding returned to counties for roads. He conveyed stories of watching semi-trailers with chains on the wheels tearing up gravel roads after a moderate spring rain.
"The ditches were easier to drive in," he said.
One road had to be turned from pavement into gravel because the county could not afford to maintain it, causing those living along the road problems with dust as well as lowering property values.
He called current impact funding "a slap in the face" to his county.
Vicky Steiner of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties addressed directly the industry representatives present at the summit.
"We're not going to be able to do this (get more road funding) without you," she said. And without that help, no one would be benefiting.
"Your trucks are driving those roads," she said. "Your industry is going to slow down."