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Montana is steadily forging to the front and will soon have oil "second to none," said William Whitsett, Executive Vice President of Devon Energy Corporation. "The big sky is the limit in what we see in Eastern Montana in terms of becoming an energy powerhouse," declared Whitsett, at the Montana Energy 2012 tradeshow in Billings, last week.
Montana is experiencing "a revolution in energy... in spite of some of the policy decisions being made," said Whitsett, a Montana native whose company, which is based in Oklahoma, is one of the largest in the nation involved in that revolution. "Even if the Montana Bakken turns out to be a fraction of North Dakota, we are still looking at huge energy potential in eastern Montana."
"It's excitement that you can feel in this room— in Montana —in the country. It's not only justified but permanent – if we do the right things," said Whitsett.
What he sees as "doing the right things" is a responsibility to educate the public as to what it's all about, as part of its "social contract" to do business. "If we understand the industry and do things right the sky is the limit. The same is true of other energies, too," he said.
He pointed out that there are a lot of people in the country who have a lot of concern, but studies have shown that the closer people are to the industry, the more they understand it, the less concerned they are. ""We need to make sure people understand what we do. .. We need to demystify the nature of our businesses," he said.
Whitsett talked about the concerns about fracing, about additives to water, and emissions. "We need to find a way of letting people see it is not mysterious. And, that even while those things [additives] are benign, they do not get into the water." He said that the technology is improving so that "we are using less and less water, we are using more non-drinking water for steam processes, and we are recycling, blending and reusing water. Our emissions are low."
Whitsett talked about the ups and downs and uncertainties of oil development in the past, but this time around he said, "everything is different." This time it's not about the resources, "it is about technology."
Devon Energy Corporation "cracked the technology code" that led the shale revolution by using computer imaging to direct horizontal drilling. The technology takes most of the risk out of exploration. The new technology has "hits" almost 100 percent of the time.
Estimated to have 24 billion barrels in the Bakken play – Whitsett predicted that that estimate will continue to grow. "It will be a lot bigger in the not too distant future," he said.
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