A long-time fixture among Williston Basin exploration and production companies, Denver-based SM Energy Co. said earlier this month it is selling its remaining Bakken assets in North Dakota to concentrate on Texas acreage. But others are staying in the Bakken.

In a monthly production-reporting webinar, North Dakota’s chief oil/gas regulator, Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources, mentioned the SM Energy move as the exception to other, larger companies (Hess Corp., Oasis Petroleum Inc. and Whiting Petroleum Corp.) that continue to hang on to their substantial Bakken assets and drill new wells even with current depressed crude prices.

“SM is going to leave North Dakota and take all the money generated from asset sales and invest it in the Permian Basin, but there are a number of large companies that have great assets in the Bakken,” Helms said.

SM Energy CEO Jay Ottoson said the sale should continue SM’s goal of “generating differential shareholder value through concentrating our capital spending on top-tier asset development.”

Calling Hess, Oasis and Whiting “pure Bakken players,” Helms said these companies have very liquid assets in the core area of the Bakken, and “with the numbers of uncompleted wells at an all-time high, it is very profitable for them to drill at today’s oil prices.” The Bakken core assets are the best these three companies have, he said.

“Alternatively, SM Energy has been a North Dakota company for decades, but they have significant producing assets in the Permian,” Helms said.