Donald Trump to speak at North Dakota oil expo in Bismarck

BISMARCK, N.D. – Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been tabbed as the keynote speaker for the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference that will be held later this month in Bismarck, an oil industry group said Wednesday.

The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference is scheduled for May 24-26 at the Bismarck Civic Center. North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness said Trump is slated to speak at 1 p.m. on the final day.

“I think it’s very exciting to have what looks like the Republican presidential nominee come to North Dakota to provide some details to the extent possible on issues that impact North Dakota,” Ness said.

North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Kelly Armstrong said Trump’s appearance in Bismarck could help his standing with the state’s 28 delegates, most of whom “were very pro-Ted Cruz.” The Texas senator suspended his campaign Tuesday after Trump won Indiana’s primary.

“I think that puts Trump in a very good position,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think we have a ton of ‘never Trump people’ but I’m sure we have some.”

The 24th annual petroleum conference will feature dozens of speakers, from politicians to top oil company executives, and industry-specific seminars. More than 1,650 people have registered and are coming in from more than 30 states and several countries, Ness said.

Trump’s appearance “obviously will be a big boost to our conference,” he said.

The address from Trump is included in the expo’s $400 registration fee, but a ticket only for his address is $30. About 6,000 tickets are available and will go on sale Monday, Ness said.

Trump’s speech will be preceded by an address by former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.

The event has alternated in recent years between locations in North Dakota and Canada. It was held in Saskatchewan last year and was held in Bismarck two years ago.

The expo has drawn some star power in recent years, including conservative radio and television host Sean Hannity, who drew standing ovations for his pro-oil address two years ago. Among the attendees in 2012 was Tony La Russa, the former St. Louis Cardinals manager who guided the team to the World Series title the year before. La Russa was invited by billionaire oilman Harold Hamm, the chairman of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc., the largest leaseholder of oil-drilling rights in North Dakota.

Hamm last month endorsed Trump for president.

The annual conference drew only a few hundred attendees until just a few years ago. The event has grown with the explosion of activity in North Dakota’s oil patch, which lies within the Williston Basin, a 134,000 square-mile-area that includes the Dakotas, Montana and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Officials from the Dakotas and Montana, and from the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, are slated to give updates on oil activity in those areas, Ness said.

The gem of the basin is the Bakken formation that encompasses some 25,000 square miles within the Williston Basin, about two-thirds of which is in western North Dakota, the No 2 oil-producing state behind Texas.

The U.S. Geological Survey has called the Bakken formation it the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed.