- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The group representing North Dakota’s petroleum industry is holding its annual meeting in the state’s biggest city of Fargo in the hopes that it will give people far from the western oil patch a chance to learn more about drilling activity.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies doing business in North Dakota, opened registration Wednesday for its annual meeting Sept. 22-23. The event costs $600 for nonmembers to attend.

A free event that’s open to the public is set for Sept. 21 and is intended to tout oil-related business opportunities, said Tessa Sandstrom, a spokeswoman for the group.

“It’s a unique opportunity to get out and share information about the industry,” Sandstrom said of holding the annual meeting in Fargo, which is at least 250 miles from the nearest oil well.

North Dakota trails only Texas in oil production among U.S. states. Its output has risen from about 261,000 barrels a day in 2010 to more than 1 million barrels daily today with advanced drilling techniques in the rich Bakken shale and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state.

The annual meeting, which is in its 34th year, historically has been held in the tourist town of Medora in southwest North Dakota, or on a few occasions just outside the oil patch in places like Minot or Bismarck. Two years ago, the group moved its meeting to eastern North Dakota for the first time, to Grand Forks.

Sandstrom said the annual meeting, which is expected to draw about 800 people from it’s the group’s membership, has “outgrown” Medora.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said oil-related opportunities for entrepreneurs extend well beyond western North Dakota.

Residents of eastern North Dakota have been “incredibly supportive” of drilling in the western part of the state and several businesses in Fargo already “are heavily involved in the Bakken,” Ness said.

Jill Halvorson, sales director for the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the annual meeting is expected to inject about $180,000 into the local economy.

Halvorson said her group has been “wooing” the petroleum trade group for years.

“When they held it in Grand Forks it opened the door for us,” she said. “There is no oil in Grand Forks either.”


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