Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

North Dakota Mineral Resources Director retiring

Dave Thompson
Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms at a "Director's Cut" briefing

After 26 years in state government, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms is retiring, effective June 30th.

Helms was first appointed by the state Industrial Commission to lead what was then the Oil and Gas division. That was in 1998.

"The industry had just discovered horizontal drilling, in the 1990s," Helms said in an interview.

Helms said there was some growth — oil production had increased from about 60,000 barrels a day to just under 100,000 barrels a day. He said the technology of the day was “extremely crude.” But he said technology – and a workforce that embraced it -- changed the landscape in North Dakota.

"The industry is in a totally different place now," Helms said. "Of course, $70 oil, and at one time, $136 oil, is what financed all the technology revision."

Helms said the technology is in "an order of magnitude" greater than it was in 1998.

Helms said along the way, there have been challenges – the ups and downs of commodities like oil. And then there was the challenge of reducing the flaring of natural gas.

"Because we didn't have the gathering and processing industry for our natural gas, that led to over 36 percent of the gas being flared, to get those wells on production," Helms said.

Helms credits then-Governor Jack Dalrymple and industry leaders, who came up with solutions. He said Continental Resources was first to propose its own “gas capture plan” – and that became a blueprint for state regulation.

"Over the period from 2014 through about 2019, we went from 65 percent gas capture to over 90 percent gas capture," Helms said. "We're now at 95 to 96 percent capture."

Helms said he expects the industry to continue to grow slowly. And he said once enhanced oil recovery gets into full swing, that could extend the life of the Bakken for years.

Related Content