When I first came to work in North Dakota in 2011 during the oil boom, I did not know very much about the oil industry. I just never really cared to know, I had never had the need to know.
During my first days after arriving in North Dakota, it was so busy here, that every company I visited in Williston offered me a job, if I could find a place to live. About every other company that I stopped at in Dickinson offered me a job.
I accepted a job at a small oil field service company in Dickinson, partly because the manager offered to let me stay in my truck camper in the company yard, and there was a shower in the office that I could use. (At this time, small old studio apartments rented for $1,500 per month in Dickinson, if you could even find one available.)
The oil field service company in Dickinson that I went to work for, they serviced, repaired, and installed oil well pump jacks. From my previous years of experience working as a superintendent and project manager for the erection of communication towers and construction of communication sites, I had operated crane trucks, backhoes, bobcats, excavators, and used surveying equipment to measure and layout the placement of towers and equipment on site.
Very quickly, I became a little frustrated working at the oil field service company in Dickinson, because my local Dickinson co-workers were not sharing information. During the installation of oil well pump jacks, I would have liked to have known, where they were getting the measurements for the placement of the concrete pad, and the pump jack, relative to the well head. I would also like to have known, the measurements for the clamping of the horse head bridle to the pump rod.
Over the past eight years of working in the oil field in North Dakota and Texas, I have experienced that people working in the oil industry don’t share information readily. I have discovered that there are very few people in the oil industry who have vast encompassing knowledge, the majority of even the experienced oil field workers have knowledge that is just limited to the tasks that they personally perform every day.
The tradespeople working in the oil industry are guarded about the particular jobs that they do, they don’t want competition, someone else trying to do what they do, and possibly taking their job. But it’s that way throughout the entire oil industry, whether its a truck driver, drill rig floor hand, work over rig hand, pumper, automation & controls, engineer, or land man, they have knowledge that is mostly limited to just what they personally do, and they are reluctant to share what they do know.
It is very hard to get accurate, concise, useful information about the oil industry, partly because most of the people working in the industry have just small bits and pieces of knowledge, and what they do have, it is guarded and not shared.
I was very surprised, astonished, when I was reading a news article yesterday about the price of oil, and the article referenced data compiled by a law firm Haynes and Boone. I couldn’t believe it, Haynes and Boone had compiled complete lists of every oil company and oil field service company in the U.S. that had filed for bankruptcy since 2015.
One of the areas that the law firm Haynes and Boone specializes in, is oil company bankruptcy and restructuring. In order to identify what is happening in the oil industry at any given time, they compiled complete lists of the oil companies and oil field service companies that had filed for bankruptcy, and how much debt these companies have.
The reason why this information compiled by Haynes and Boone is interesting to me, is because I am so sick and tired of misinformation and propaganda being spread by local Chambers of Commerce, business magazines, and newspapers, that gladly relay the press releases and marketing ploys of the oil companies.
When things are going bad in an industry, often times the companies will make a big effort to make the public believe the exact opposite of what is actually happening, in order to keep company stock prices high, in order to continue to receive investments and operating loans, to put employees at ease, and to keep up the charade for as long as possible when on the verge of collapse.
Another reason why the Haynes and Boone bankruptcy information is interesting to me, is for me to be able to decide what kind of work that I want to do in the future, where do I want to live, and where do I want to buy property.
During the North Dakota oil boom from 2007-2014, there were rumors being spread around the World about everyone making over $100K per year working in the oil field of North Dakota. This was far from being true, but the rumor persisted. If workers were being paid $100K per year, how much money could you make by starting an oil company or an oil field service company?
When I looked at the Haynes and Boone bankruptcy lists, I saw some oil field companies on the lists that I had applied to work for in the past, such as Key Energy and Weatherford, but there were other company names that I recognized. Key Energy and Weatherford had hundreds or thousands of employees, company yards and warehouses, trucks, cranes, and heavy equipment. They performed a great deal of work in the oil field, but they filed for bankruptcy??? How do I make sense of that?
It turns out that the oil industry really is a boom and bust industry. People think that they are going to become rich, but bankruptcy is the result instead for many people and businesses. We think of oil company owners as billionaires and millionaires, but if you look at the bankruptcy lists, many oil companies went out of business, owing creditors hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here is the link to the Haynes and Boone lists: https://www.haynesboone.com/Publications/energy-bankruptcy-monitors-and-surveys