FARGO – North Dakota's Oil Patch is about drilling for oil and safely moving it around, but it's also increasingly about collecting information and putting that information to work.
That was the message at Monday's Bits and Bytes seminar at the Fargo Theatre, where representatives from Red River Valley companies talked about how the gear and technology they provide is helping the work done in the oilfields of western North Dakota.
One factor at the heart of everything that happens in the Bakken Formation is distance, said Glenn Mitzel, a systems engineer with JDP Automation in Moorhead.
Mitzel said JDP Automation "makes stuff move" and once that is accomplished, it helps customers optimize systems by making that "stuff" move more efficiently.
More and more, he said, that involves information: collecting it from things like wellheads and other installations and getting it to the right people.
That's particularly important with equipment maintenance and repair, he said.
Getting data to workers in the field is a growing part of what Fargo-based Myriad Mobile does, said company co-founder and CEO Jake Joraanstad.
Joraanstad said Verizon's network in North Dakota allows for huge amounts of data to be collected from various locations, which raises an issue of where to put that data and how to make it accessible from people's phones.
In many cases, Myriad Mobile can answer both questions, he said.
One company that has been in the Oil Patch for decades is Border States Electric, said CEO Tammy Miller.
"We have been in western North Dakota through thick and thin," she said, referring to the boom and bust years of the 1980s.
She said the success of Border States Electric during the more recent oil boom helped the employee-owned company grow in other parts of the country.
Among projects the wholesale supplier of electrical parts is assisting with is the new Vikings stadium in the Twin Cities, Miller said.
She underscored Mitzel's observation that helping customers reduce the need for travel across vast stretches of western North Dakota is a primary driver of innovation in technology.
"Time is so valuable," she said.
Monday's event at the Fargo Theatre marked the start of this week's annual meeting of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which continues today and Wednesday at the Ramada Plaza Fargo Hotel and Conference Center, 1635 42nd St. S.