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During the Montana Petroleum Association conference in Billings last week, a wide ranging conversation among some attendees highlighted the status of the industry in Montana.
“I am optimistic about stable oil prices,” said David Linn, Manager and Senior Engineer of WBI Energy, Inc., a view that was reinforced by Jim Halvorson, Administrator/Petroleum Geologist, for the Montana Board of Oil & Gas Conservation.

Halvorson said that he is seeing an uptick in activity in Montana. “It is exciting to see central Montana, areas such as Shelby and Sunburst, permitting wells. It’s looking very good.”
Dave Ballard, Ballard Petroleum Holdings, Billings, said, “It is important to maintain industry health,” and that is exactly what he is seeing. He noted that there is significant investment going on in Montana, including mid-stream pipelines, or “the incredible opportunities with Denbury’s investment.” Denbury is building a pipeline to transport CO2 from Wyoming to its Montana fields to be used in a third-phase fracking process that pulls as much as 20 percent more oil out of existing wells.
Also, noted Ballard, “the refining sector seems healthy. We aren’t just a one-trick pony.” He added, “I would like to see rig count go up. It will require some exploratory investments.”
Kent Beers, President of the Montana Petroleum Association, noted, “The idea of drilling an exploration well has become pretty foreign, but eventually we will have to see that investment. The last 15 years, it’s been shale, shale, shale. Montana certainly has resources that can be developed in the right time and right place.”
Said Shane LaCasse, Environmental, Safety & Health Manager, for CHS Laurel Refinery, “The power supply is a worry. We are seeing thunderstorms 200 miles away impacting our power reliability.”
Michael Kukuk… Oasis Petroleum, said, “We can’t seem to get out of our own way. While we have achieved energy independence, there is a growing constituency that just wants to shut us down, based on bad information. That is the bigger threat. Unable to curb demand, they have discovered they can cut off supply.”
David Linn agreed that there “are some active anti-carbon legislation and several initiatives on ballots of three coastal state… wanting to have 50 to 80 percent non-carbon energy portfolios. We can win the technology battle, but if we lose public perception battle…  We all know practically those alternative energy sources aren’t capable of meeting the need, but the public’s perception is more ideological than practical.”