(AP) The godfather of North Dakota's present oil bonanza predicted the state's crude production will double to 2 million barrels daily by decade's end but warned industry officials Thursday that future safety missteps would threaten that.
"We can't have any more issues," Harold Hamm, the chairman of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc., told expo-goers at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck. "It has to be done in an absolute safe manner. It's going to take all of us."
Hamm's company is the biggest producer and largest leaseholder in the Bakken shale formation, with more than 1 million acres in North Dakota and Montana. The company, which has been drilling in North Dakota for almost 25 years, was among the first to tap a Bakken well in 2004 using horizontal drilling technology. The company was the first to drill a horizontal well in the underlying Three Forks formation in 2008.
Unlocking the once-perplexing formations has propelled North Dakota from the nation's ninth-largest oil producer in 2006 to No. 2, behind Texas. But the state's unprecedented oil boom recently been marred by a massive oil pipeline rupture last fall near Tioga and a fiery oil train derailment in December near Casselton.
The disaster in the small town west of Fargo was one of at least eight major accidents during the last year, including an explosion of Bakken crude in Lac-Megantic, Quebec that killed 47 people. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have since derailed and caught fire in Alabama, New Brunswick and Virginia.
Hamm said just one more incident is enough to put the brakes on Bakken oil development.
"If we have anything, they're going to shut us down," the billionaire oilman said. "So many people want to stop fossil fuel use and production. They don't have anything to take its place, but they want to stop it. We're in the crosshairs."
Hamm, who later sat on a panel with other company CEOs, said his company's oil production in the Bakken has increased more than tenfold to 88,000 barrels a day since 2007.
"We're the envy of the world," Hamm said of the Bakken, which encompasses some 25,000 square miles in North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. About two-thirds of the acreage is in western North Dakota.