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What current trend are you waiting to see end?

“Crop tops.”

- Jamie Alvarez

“Abortion.”

-Ray Waddoups

“Tik Tok app.”

- Blake Benson

“Trump and the border issues.”

- Carol Erickson

“Texting and driving because it’s stupid.”

- Staci Olson


Whiting lays off 254, about 100 in the Bakken

Whiting Oil and Gas will lay off 254 employees, including 94 executive and corporate positions, which represents 33 percent of its workforce.

“The decision to reduce headcount is always a difficult one, as it impacts talented colleagues and friends,” Whiting President, Chairman and CEO Brad Holly said during its second quarter earnings call. “However, this action will better align our business unit with the operating environment and drive long-term value.”

Company officials would not tell the Williston Herald how many jobs were lost in the Bakken, but Williston Job ServicesND office manager Paula Hickel estimated that 100 in the New Town-Williston area received layoff notices.

Hickel is working on a program to help the employees navigate obtaining both benefits and new employment.

“More details to come about dates/times for these events (they will be next week), but employees who were laid off are encouraged to come see us at Job Service ND – Williston,” she said in an email to the Williston Herald.

Whiting operates 473,781 net acres in the Bakken, and about 87,000 in Colorado. Its headquarters is in Denver. It has 1,500 operating wells in North Dakota.

In its second quarter earnings call, Whiting cited both constrained infrastructure, unanticipated downtime, and the need to maintain capital discipline and pay down debts as factors in its decision.

The cuts will produce $15 million in savings for 2019, and $50 million on an annualized basis. The cuts will add $2.40 per barrel and another $1.21 cents per share of cash flow, company officials said.

Whiting in 2014 purchased Kodiak Oil & Gas for $3.8 billion, which made it the state’s largest producer at the time. It also purchased 55,000 net acres from Oasis Petroleum last year for $130 million, the Foreman Butte in McKenzie County.

Wells drilled in the Foreman Butte have performed well, Holly said.

“The reduction of old guidance is a function of above-ground constraints,” he said.

North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources reported an 81 percent gas capture rate in May, but the target was 88 percent, Holly pointed out.

To stay within that, Whiting officials estimated self-restriction of production totaling about 2,000 barrels per day.

In that region, a gas plant was expected to come online last November but did not make it by then, Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said. The plant, Little Missouri 4, is still not fully operational, and won’t be until the Elk Creek NGL line that ONEOK is constructing is completed.

Whiting officials also said during the company’s second quarter earnings call that they lost 1,000 barrels per day due to unexpected downtime. That included spring flooding on the east bank of the Yellowstone, which caused some wells to be shut in temporarily and incurred unanticipated expense.

While success in the newly acquired Foreman Butte was touted during Whiting’s earnings call and will add 100 high-quality drilling locations to Whiting’s inventory, the constraints in that region of McKenzie County will mean further development of the acreage must wait.

The company said it would shift more of its activity to the Sanish, in Mountrail County, where it has more takeaway capacity to help meet year-end guidance.

Whiting last month dropped a rig, and said it will be dropping one hydraulic fracturing crew toward the end of the quarter. It was not clear from the earnings call if the quarter referred to is the second or third. A public relations employee for the company said they would not provide any details beyond those provided in the press release and earnings call.

Whiting officials also said they will finish this year with 10 more than their usual 40 drilled but uncompleted wells.

While 2,000 barrels per day of self-restricted production doesn’t seem like a large amount, Helms pointed out it is still a constraint on growth. That, in general, can hinder a company’s ability to meet its financial targets.

But whether the layoffs herald a trend due to constrained infrastructure in the Bakken is unclear.

“We could (see more layoffs),” he said. “I don’t know with regards to infrastructure constraints, because we are getting so close to all this stuff coming online. But capital is definitely constrained because of lower oil prices.”

Helms said Whiting had told him in earlier conversations that new efficiencies will allow them to reduce its rig and its hydraulic fracturing crews by one each and still drill and complete the same number of wells.

“That would indicate there will be other companies doing some of this,” Helms said.

The midstream, meanwhile, seems to be on schedule as far as a 2020 rollout of nearly a billion cubic feet per day of natural gas processing capacity.

“We have met with three of the major midstream companies, and we have more of those meetings to come this month,” Helms said. “It looks like the midstream projects are on track. If that is the case, we should be out of this constraint problem by the first of the year.”

That will create a window of about two and one-half years with adequate gas processing and NGL takeaway, Helms added.

After that, the state will need about 1.275 billion more cfd — three times what has so far been announced, which totals 425 million cfd. Those newly announced projects include Hess-Tioga, XTO Nesson, and ONEOk’s Bear Creek expansion.

“That’s what we’ll need to really stay ahead of the curve and continue at 91 percent capture with the production growth we anticipate,” Helms said.


Photo By Nicole Lucina Sidney Herald  

Local organizations provide backpacks for students at Central and Westside

Stockman Bank, Dayton Foundation and Eagle Foundation teamed up to provide backpacks filled with supplies for each student at both Central and Westside schools with, from left, Garth Kalliveg, Stockman Bank and Dayton Foundation; Sara Romo, Central School principal; Lauryn Romo, Brooklyn Romo and Nick Kallem, Eagle Foundation vice president. Backpacks and supplies cost around $5,200 total. Kalliveg said they did the same in Plentywood and contacted the schools here to see if there was a need for backpacks for the students. This is the second year they’ve had the backpack program available in Sidney. Students can pick up a backpack when they come in to register for the school year.


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Small town roots keeps Richey's Big Sky Hardware going strong

The farther one gets down Highway 200 toward Richey, the more frequent the single-fingered waves and head nods become from passing drivers. As the narrow road winds its way into real rural Montana, it’s like being led back in time. The nostalgic feeling is a welcomed one, especially once the road leads to Big Sky Hardware in Richey.

Jeff and Tonya Brost have officially owned the store for the past three years, but purchased it from Jeff’s parents Vern and Jan. It’s still a family affair, with Vern helping the couple in the summer while his grandson drives truck, then going back to Billings when farming season slows down in the winter. Now employing the third generation of the Brost family, it’s more than the glue that keeps their family going — it keeps Richey afloat as well.

“We help people and people help us,” Vern said. “This whole town is a family.”

The store opened around 1917, Vern estimated. He said during that time, Richey shipped the most grain in the world, back when they were a main stop on the end of the railroad.

“I came here to teach in 1968,” Vern said. He was the business teacher at Richey school.

In 1974, the eighth grade teacher and Vern decided to buy the store, then a John Deere dealer, from the owner who was trying to retire. In 1976, Vern quit teaching to work at the store full-time and two years later the former teachers bought the hardware store in Watford City. By 1980, they decided to split their halves, with Vern staying in Richey as the owner.

“We sold it in ’94 and in ’96 we got it back again,” he said. “I came back and ran it with Jeff. About a year later, Jeff said, ‘I can do it,’ and I went back to Billings.”

Vern recalled fondly the years when the store only received freight every two weeks by train and what a marvel it was when they began receiving shipments weekly by truck.

“Then they had an 800 number. It was great,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of leaps [in technology] over the time.”

In 1992, the store began carrying groceries when the local grocer closed. They bought the lumber yard in Circle when that closed and offer furniture selections that can be delivered within a couple weeks. It’s no wonder locals refer to it as the “Richey Walmart.”

Over the years, the store has had a unique adaptability for their customers. They’ve sold television sets, offered CB radio installation, sold lottery tickets, served as a UPS drop-off/pick-up for years and currently sell fish and game licenses. The store has also recently branched into cattle feed and fencing. There’s a toy aisle, paint, tools, oscillating fans, work gloves and even a small, fully operational hair salon at the back of the store.

Customers trickle in and out all day, purchasing items from garbage cans, to cans of coffee, frozen snacks, laundry detergent and other incidentals. It’s an impressive bit of business for a town that boasts around 200 in population.

“We go where people take us,” Vern said. “You’re not going to get all the business, but we have people that are loyal to us and that’s what’s kept us in business.”

Vern said they can get almost anything bigger grocery stores in the area can get as members of Associated Foods.

“The only thing we can’t do is fresh meat because we have nowhere to cut it up,” Tonya said.

With strong ties to their community, the Brosts are proud of the services they’ve been able to provide over the years, but Tonya said it’s not something she necessarily thinks about every day.

“It’s just a good way to make a living,” she said. “I don’t know what else we would do at this point.”

Big Sky Hardware doesn’t seem to be in any danger of leaving anytime soon. They hope to eventually knock down a couple old buildings next door and expand the store, opening up some shelf space for more merchandise.

“It’s the lifeblood of the town,” Vern said. “We feel responsible. If we’re going to be taking care of the town for my lifetime, we have to do the best we can. We’re not going to let it die on our watch.”


Local_news
5 things to know

1With school coming up, don’t forget about after-school care. Boys and Girls Club after school registration is Monday, Aug. 5, at 5:30 p.m., at the Lonsdale Center Clubhouse. These sign ups are for anyone who would like their children registered in the after school program, ages kindergarten through fifth grade.

2Summer Art Camp, ages 2-4, at MonDak Heritage Center begins Tuesday, Aug. 6, from 10:30 a.m. — 12 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. To sign up, stop by the heritage center or call 433-3500.

3On Wednesday, Aug. 7, there will be an interagency meeting regarding floods, lowering flood risk, flood insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program, Fairview Senior Center, 6:30 p.m. Representatives from the Montana and North Dakota floodplain and emergency management programs are coordinating to provide information for property owners who have been affected by floods or are vulnerable to flooding. Tips will be provided for community officials and property owners about what resources are available to them to help lower their flood risk and assist in the long recovery road. Contact NFIP coordinators Traci Sears, 406-444-6654, or Dionne Haynes, 701-328-4961 for more information.

4Sidney Young Professionals host their Back to School Bash at Pizza House, 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 8.

5Sixth Annual Sidney Summer Intensive, Cutting Edge Dance Studio, Friday, Aug. 9, at 9 a.m. — Aug. 11 at 5 p.m. Open to all dancers. This is a once per year opportunity to take classes from three professionals from all of the country in one place. Email for more info: