Gov. Doug Burgum leads a meeting of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, at the state Capitol on Tuesday in Bismarck. Earlier Tuesday at the Bakken conference at the Bismarck Event Center, Burgum issued challenges to the oil industry, including striving for zero spills and reaching a production level of 2 million barrels per day. 

Gov. Doug Burgum issued a challenge Tuesday to the North Dakota oil industry: Eliminate spills while doubling production to 2 million barrels a day.

Burgum, who spoke to an oil industry conference in Bismarck, advocated for more use of technology to prevent and detect spills, mentioning major North Dakota oil spills that were first detected by farmers and ranchers.

Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford spoke to about 450 people who are attending The Bakken Conference & Expo, organized by North American Shale Magazine. The two took office when thousands camped in North Dakota in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“I don’t think that was a one-off; I think that’s something we’re going to see more and more of,” Burgum said.

The governor held a closed meeting in May with the oil and gas industry aimed at improving pipeline safety.

“Our mantra is innovation not regulation,” said Burgum, who is chairman of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees the oil and gas industry.

Burgum urged the industry to use technology to protect the environment and strive for a perfect record. Sanford, who is chairman of the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority, said there are opportunities for the energy industry to do more with drones to monitor pipelines.

“We should have zero tolerance ourselves and try to truly eliminate spills,” Burgum said.

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Burgum signed a bill approved by North Dakota legislators last session that will reduce the number of spills reported in the state. After the new law takes effect on Aug. 1, companies won’t have to report oil or saltwater spills that are less than 10 barrels a day that remain on a well site. A requirement to clean up all spills does not change.

Burgum challenged those in attendance to work for an average oil production of 2 million barrels per day, or about double the current rate of 1.04 million barrels per day.

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“I don’t think that’s at all impossible,” Burgum said. “I think that is something this industry should be thinking about.”

The state’s top oil regulator, Lynn Helms, has said it is possible but not likely that North Dakota will produce 2 million barrels of oil per day. Helms, who was not at Tuesday’s conference, estimates that production could hit 1.8 million barrels per day. The state’s record oil production was more than 1.2 million barrels per day set in December 2014.

Burgum also urged oil operators to develop partnerships with the state’s coal industry to capture carbon and develop enhanced oil recovery projects.

In addition, he encouraged attendees to consider value-added opportunities, such as plastics plants and fertilizer plants, in North Dakota.

“We really want to be adding more value to the natural resources that we’re producing here before we ship them out of state,” Burgum said.

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(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)