The Williston Basin centered in North Dakota and spreading into parts of adjacent states and Canada carries huge long-term potential, and operators are finding that there is no single formula for unlocking its treasure of crude oil and natural gas, according to senior executives at Denver-based Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp.

"We produced more oil and generated more cash than we ever have," said CEO Lynn Peterson.

Peterson and other Kodiak executives emphasized during an earnings conference call that they see continuing production growth and a lowering of time and costs for each new well drilled. But they stressed that the situation varies depending upon what part of the Williston Basin they are working in. Under current acquisition and sales, Kodiak is headed toward having 195,000 net acres in the Williston Basin, including both the Bakken and Three Forks plays, they said.

"This is a big play and a huge oil discovery, so this is going to evolve over time," said Peterson, who in mid-October commented that takeaway pipeline and rail capabilities have improved and the lower rig counts in North Dakota today compared to recent years is reflective of much greater efficiencies in drilling (see Shale Daily, Oct. 15). "There are a lot of opportunities, a lot of good jobs, and we're hanging in there, performing well."

In response to an analyst's question about "what's left in the Bakken," Peterson said "the bear den is always looking for more food, and we're always looking for more opportunities. I think we understand that this basin has gone through a lot of M&A [mergers and acquisitions] today; a lot of properties have changed hands. But if you look at the basin as a whole, the majority of it is in public company hands right now."

He emphasized that the Williston still holds some "big opportunities," and if the right opportunities arise, Kodiak will be making additional purchases as it did earlier this year with its buy of 42,000 net acres from Liberty Resources LLC for in excess of $600 million (see Shale Daily, July 15).

"We like the [Williston], and we think it has provided us with some great return on investment, and we're going to try to be as aggressive as possible," Peterson said.

Kodiak executives, including COO James Catlin and CFO James Henderson, stressed that efficiencies are driving all the growth in the Williston. For example, they said that two years ago the company averaged 30 days to complete a new well, and by the end of this year that will be down to 15 days.

Since 2008 when the company got started in the basin there were fewer multi-well pads. Now almost all of Kodiak's drilling is done on multi-well pads, and the numbers for each pad keep going up, now averaging about six wells/pad. In 2008, the company could drill about eight or nine wells per rig each year; now the numbers are 14-15 wells per rig per year, Peterson said.

"There continue to be advances in well completion technology in the basin, and in our opinion there is no on completion formula," he said. "We use different methods in different parts of the basin."

Kodiak reported net income of $31.2 million (12 cents/share) compared to $3.5 million (1 cent/share) for the same period last year. Oil and gas sales in 3Q2013 totaled $299.6 million, compared to $112.1 million for the same period in 2012, and compared to $173.5 million for the second quarter this year.