It’s Over. The Oil Boom is Over in North Dakota. Just about everyone living and working in Western North Dakota can see that it is over, and they acknowledge that it is over.
My recollection is that the price of oil started to decrease in December of 2014, and that the price of oil continued to decrease each month after that. In the summer of 2015 in Dickinson, though the price of oil had fallen, there was still quite a bit of work going on. There were a couple of large road improvement projects on State Avenue, the new Public Safety Building was being completed, Trinity High School was being worked on, there were several large commercial developments that were having site work done, several large apartment communities and one hotel were nearing completion. There were still a lot of workers in Dickinson, and Dickinson was busy, just not as busy as it had been in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
I can remember in the summer of 2015, there was discussion of the number of operating drill rigs, continuing to decrease. Many oil field workers were losing their jobs that were related to drilling and fracturing, but oil field workers that were doing service, repair, installation, and oil hauling were not losing as many jobs. In the summer of 2015, and fall of 2015, it seemed like if the price of oil increased, everybody that was currently employed would keep their job, that more oil drill rigs would become operational and many people that had lost their job, would get their job back.
In the winter of 2015, the price of oil continued to drop. The number of drill rigs operating continued to decrease. Outside of Dickinson, drill rigs were positioned close together in tight rows and columns, for long term storage, not easy access for moving. In Dickinson, Baker Hughes parked all of their trucks and equipment nose to bumper, side by side, in one great big mass, so you couldn’t get anything out, they were done. Occidental took their sign off the entrance to their building, they no longer have a receptionist, and no one will come to the door. In order to not have to talk to people, some drilling companies have locked the entrance gates to their property during the day. I know of one oil field service company, where the manager parks his vehicle inside the building, so that nobody knows he is there and stops by to ask for a job.
Some of the real estate investors are trying to sell their properties, but it is too late, they waited too long. They were waiting to see if things were going to turn-around, but it is apparent now that they aren’t. I thought that by the summer of 2016, the price of oil would have gone back up. I thought that by the summer of 2016, the people that were here in Dickinson would all have jobs, and that some of the people that left Dickinson would come back because there would be quite a few job openings by then. That doesn’t look like that will happen now.
It looks like the price of oil will continue to drop. It looks like Continental, Marathon, Whiting, Conoco Philips, Tesoro, Hess, Haliburton, Baker Hughes, Schlumberger, Nabors, Patterson, H&P, all the small oil field service companies, all the man-camps, all the apartment communities, all the hotels, all the real estate developers/investors, all the business owners, all the restaurant owners, know that the boom is gone, that it is not coming back, and that there is not going to be much new oil production work in the foreseeable future.