Posts Tagged ‘minot’

Catch of the Day

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Most workers in the oil field try to maximize their sleep time. After a long shift, they go home and rest. But some roughnecks prefer to get out and enjoy North Dakota’s great outdoors.

Photo by Ben Garvin

Boomtown Stats

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Working as a reporter in the oil patch is great fun. I meet all kinds of people: Knife sellers, hamburger slingers and roughnecks. You’ve probably heard some of those stories here on the radio.

But there’s another way to tell a story. It’s with numbers. For a few weeks now, I’ve been asking bureaucrats in Bismarck to illustrate how life has changed in oil country.

Here are some highlights:

• Did you know the average oil worker in Williams County — which includes Williston — makes about $99,000 a year? That same North Dakota Job Services report showed that the average wage for all workers in Williams County —— is $77,000 a year.

Those high salaries are attracting people to the oil patch.

• For years, the fastest growing cities in America have been in the south. Places like The Villages, a retirement community in Florida.

JINGLE: “The Villages. America’s Friendliest Hometown!”

The Villages is growing fast. Its population jumped 4 percent last year. But it’s no match for Williston. Williston grew at a rate of 8.8 percent last year, that’s about twice as fast as the Villages. And Williston doesn’t even have a jingle.

• While most of those newcomers are adults, some are children. Public school enrollment in the oil patch is on the rise. In September 2007, fewer than 370 students were enrolled in the Stanley Public Schools. Four years later, that number had increased 66 percent to 552 students.

• Roads are increasingly crowded too. I’ve driven thousands of miles in the oil patch. And I’ve seen — and been intimidated by — lots of big trucks. But even I was surprised to learn just how many permits the states has issued for oversize trucks in the first five months of this year. Ready? 45,000. And that’s just for the first five months of 2012.

Most of those permits were issued in four of the biggest oil producing counties: Williams, Dunn, Mountrail and McKenzie counties.

• Trucks aren’t the only form of transportation on the rise. The number of people boarding planes and trains in the oil patch has taken off faster than a 747.

In the space of a single year — from 2010 to 2011 — the number of people jumping on planes in Minot increased by almost 60,000 people. That growth was so explosive that Minot shot past Grand Forks to become the third busiest airport in the state.

2012 is on track to be even busier in Minot. And that’s undoubtedly tied to the city’s proximity to the Bakken. Boardings are up 68 percent in the first five months of the year.

More people are also riding Amtrak trains in the oil patch. In Williston and Stanley, ridership is on track to double at those stops in 2012.

• At night, the orange glow of natural gas flares are a common sight in the oil patch. It’s also a big reason why pollution from such flares increased 4.5 percent last year. The World Bank cites North Dakota oil production as the main reason for the increase.

There are other downsides to the boom too.

• Oil companies don’t just pump black gold. Sometimes they spill it. During a recent 20-month period, 720,000 gallons of oil leaked out of pipes and trucks in North Dakota. That much oil would fill an Olympic-size swimming pool – and then some.

Pro Publica, an investigative journalism website, uncovered that data. Pro Publica also found that companies spilled more than 1.7 million gallons of fracking wastewater during that same 20-month period.

The biggest offenders were Continental Resources and Whiting Oil and Gas. Each spilled more than 100,000 gallons of oil during the 20-month period. The biggest fracking wastewater spillers? Whiting and Encore Operating.

— Todd Melby

Photo by Ben Garvin

CORRECTION: In the audio version of this story, Todd Melby reports that the “average worker in Williams County … makes about $99,000 a year.” That should be “average oil worker in Williams County.” Black Gold Boom regrets the error.

Tattoo Your Ride, Not Your Hide

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

James Goeres sells pickup truck stickers from a mobile home. His motto: “Tattoo Your Ride, Not Your Hide.”

Bow Fishing with Ben Audet

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Bow Fishing in the Oil Patch

Photographer Ben Garvin has joined me in western North Dakota. And what a difference it makes. During our first day together, we spotted a guy bow fishing in the Missouri River. We pulled over, chatted with him and discovered that he’d just finished his oil patch shift.

Instead of curling up at home with a video game, Benjamin Audet grabbed his bow and arrow and headed to the water. He’d been awake for 24 hours in a row, or maybe 36 hours, he wasn’t sure. His gig, like many oil jobs, isn’t on a rig, but does require long hours. On the night before we met, he worked from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Now the sun was rising in the sky and Audet was pointing his arrow into the murky Missouri at flashes of carp he saw fluttering in the water. His New Jersey Devils cap was backwards on his head and his running shoes were drenched with mud. But he didn’t seem to care.

In fact, Audet was intent on showing his visitors how well he could shoot. On the first few attempts, he missed. “Ain’t this always the way it works,” he said. “As soon as you want to see someone shoot as fish, it doesn’t happen.”

And then it did. A carp swam too close, Audet aimed, fired and impaled his nemesis.

Then Garvin stepped in to capture an image of man and fish.

— Todd Melby

(Photo by Ben Garvin)