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'Unconventional' Oil Touted at Denver Conference

KUNC file photo

Oil industry officials and state leaders meeting in Denver say tapping the region’s so-called unconventional oil reserves will be key for an economic recovery – and for filling state coffers. 

That has been a central theme of the Developing Unconventional Oil Conference and Exhibition, which runs through Wednesday in downtown Denver. 

One state where that has seemed especially true lately is North Dakota. 

In recent months, companies have scaled back drilling operations in Rocky Mountain states like Colorado in favor of another unconventional play; North Dakota’s Bakken field.  New technologies including the increased prevalence of "fracking," short for hydraulic fracturing, have led to an unprecedented drilling boom there. 

Now the country’s fourth largest oil producer, North Dakota has cut state taxes on oil production, while making what Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley said are huge investments in infrastructure.  He said other states in the Rockies could learn from his.

"Job creation leads to the rising tide of a stronger economy, which in turn leads to more state revenues for funding the priorities and we stick to that pretty well in North Dakota." Wrigley said during a keynote address at the conference Tuesday.   

Wrigley said North Dakota lawmakers have helped create a friendly environment toward fracking – which he said is partly behind his state having the lowest unemployment rate in the country. 

"Salaries are rising, it’s a rising tide across the state," Wrigley said. "When properly managed, when properly handled, when it’s diverse in its growth, it’s sound."

The conference sponsored by Denver-based Hart Energy was scheduled to wrap up Wednesday afternoon. 

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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