When the North Dakota Petroleum Council started in 1999, it was a small API affiliate state office that had two employees, 14 members, and a $40,000 budget. Today, NDPC is a leader in state trades in North Dakota and across the nation. It has nearly 600 members and includes a nonprofit foundation. Its combined annual budget is now more than $5 million and it has 10 employees, plus six contractors.
Playing a vital role in that transformation was John Kerekes, who was selected as the 18th inductee into the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s Hall of Fame.
Kerekes had nearly four decades in the oil and gas industry before retiring as Central Region Director of the American Petroleum Institute. It was during his time as the Central Region Director that he became so active in North Dakota.
At that time, NDPC was an API affiliate with a unique arrangement, including its own board. Kerekes helped NDPC transition to a standalone trade association in 2005, fighting hard for its status with API and supporting critical funding for the fledgling organization. Over the years, he became a trusted voice, and played a key role in many policy and organizational discussions.
“I met John in the summer of 1999 when he interviewed me for the job that I have today,” NDPC President Ron Ness said. “We were the only state in the nation with such a unique arrangement with API, and yet, a local board. John poured his heart into helping NDPC succeed and rarely missed an NDPC board meeting or an annual meting over the next 15 years, all the way from the middle of Michigan.”
NDPC would not exist at its present strength without the efforts of Kerekes, Ness added.
“However, my greatest appreciation for John is his rock solid mentorship, steady advice and support through all the challenges this job our industry and life create,” Ness said. “John has been like a father, a brother and a best friend to me. He was certainly the best boss I ever had.”
Kerekes said he was humbled to have been selected for such an award.
“It’s quite an honor to be recognized by folks who you respect and admire,” he said, adding that many of the people already in the Hall of Fame were his mentors.
“They made sure that I understood what was going on and what was important locally,” he said. “And not to pay too much attention to or to be too bound to what the DC staff needed the trade associations to do.”
Kerekes worked in several states, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, but North Dakota was his favorite.
“It was always such a difference, such a contrast between the ability to work with the crew here and the public officials and the North Dakota legislature and all my other states,” he said. “It was always a welcome change for me, and that’s probably why I got so engaged in North Dakota activities. Because you could accomplish something. You could get something done.”
Kerekes added he was impressed to see the kind of return on investment North Dakota has gotten from its oil and gas industry.
“It’s incredible to see this kind of a turnout and this kind of a facility, considering where we started 15, 20 years ago,” he said. “Well thanks to Ron, and thanks to all the folks I’ll be joining. I appreciate it very much.”
Other awards given out by NDPC
Excellence in Safety — Danbury was recognized for an exemplary safety record during the installation of the CCA CO2 pipeline project, which included 130 plus miles of pipe across Montana and North Dakota. At peak, there were 750 contractors working for Denbury. The work was completed during an extreme drought, which presented both significant fire risks as well as significant risk of heat-related illness. The pipeline also crossed 400 other pipelines and flow lines, some owned by Danbury, but many others were foreign crossings. Despite these many challenges, the project didn’t have even one OSHA recordable injury. Honorable mentions also included Continental Resources, Joel relic, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Ovintiv, and Saulsbury.
Environmental Stewardship Award — Enerplus was recognized for a program it established that encourages employee-led ideas for emission reductions. Enerplus dedicated $1 million in funding for internal emissions reduction initiatives generated by employees in 2021. That has since grown to 1 percent of its annual capital spend, or about $4.5 million. Five projects were completed in 2021 leading to a reduction of 17,475 metric tons of carbon dioxide. In 2022, seven projects were executed that will lead to an estimated year-end reduction of 199,256 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Honorable mentions were Continental Resources, Creedence Energy Services & EPIC Performance Solutions, Marathon Oil, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Devon Energy, and Ovintiv.
Community engagement award — Marathon Petroleum Corporation and Marathon Petroleum Logistics were recognized for their community investment strategy, which centers around strengthening communities and the people who live in them. From 2018 to 2021, Marathon gave more than $2.7 million and nearly 2000 volunteer hours to causes in North Dakota. More than $1.1 million of that went to organizations that focus on strengthening youth education and promoting career development; Bismarck State College also received $300,000 to support STEM programs, scholarships, career conferences and training labs, and $250,000 went to the Gateway to Science for a new facility and exhibits that showcase STEM-related jobs in high demand across North Dakota’s major industries. Honorable mentions included 1st International Bank, ConocoPhillips, Crestwood Equity Partners, Alma Cook, Cook Compliance, Enbridge, Hess Corporation, Liberty Resources, North Country Oil, Steve Halvorson, Wyoming Casing, ONEOK.
NDPC Distinguished Industry Leaders — Alran Arnson and Mark Gjovig, founders of GO Wireline, which operates 25 wilreine perforating trucks, as well as five high-pressure pump trucks and pressure control equipment for horizontal wells in the Rocky Mountain region. GO Wireline ploys 150-plus people today.
Arnson and Gjovig are active members of the Williston community and exceptional business leaders who have managed to stay on the cutting edge of their profession despite many challenging times int he oil industry. In addition to being great art their jobs, they are also distinguished leaders, working actively to improve community relationships, and improve the state where they live and work.
Outstanding Public Service Award — Ryan Rauschenberger was recognized for his years of service as North Dakota Tax Commissioner. Rauschenberger worked closely with the oil and gas industry to administer tax laws fairly and effectively. Hje also worked with the legislature to craft legislation that was important to the oil and gas industry. Among these efforts was a new oil and gas tax sharing agreement with MHA nation as well as the 2015 oil tax reform bill, just to name a few. Rauschenberger was always ready to work with new companies doing business in North Dakota as well, which helped both them and the state of North Dakota do well.