Thursday, September 29, 2011

List of Oil and Oil Servicing Companies in Williston

For those who are new to Williston, I'm compiling a list of major oil and oil servicing companies in town.  The list will continue to grow.  Feel free to add a name in the comments field.  To get an address in Williston for these places, just google the name with "Williston, ND" at the end.

- Baker-Hughes
- Brigham Exploration
- Calfrac Well Services
- CCS Midstream Services
- Continental Resources
- Conoco Oil
- Diamond Resources
- Frac Tech (Minot)
- Haliburton
- Hess Oil (Tioga)
- Marathon Oil
- Nabor Drilling
- NOV
- Oil States Services
- Petroleum Services
- Pioneer Drilling
- Sanjel
- Schlumberger
- Sun Well Services

Day 7

...aaaaaannnnndddd TIME!  24 hours since I got my CDL permit yesterday, and I already got my first job offer, today, from Sanjel.  They specialize in fracking and coil tubing operations.  I was offered a position in coil tubing.  The terminology for this business is a little esoteric, so I've included the following links describing some of the various processes:

1.  Fracking

2.  Coil Tubing

3.  Horizontal Drilling

All these technologies are fairly new, which means they are specialized skills that will be in high demand  as oil shale development continues to expand globally.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day Six

Yesterday, I studied all day the 140+ page CDL manual, and then took the exam around 3 pm.  The Williston DMV only offers the exam to those who have grabbed a ticket between the hours of 8-10 am and 1-3 pm.  It turns out that the exam is actually 3 tests.  The bulk is the general knowledge test (about 50 questions), then you still have to take the Combination Vehicles test and the Air Brakes test, each of which account for about ten pages of the manual.  I ended up failing the Combination vehicles test.  If someone had told me that I had to pay closer attention to that one, I would have.  Luckily, you can come back the next day and retake it, and the cost is only $5, so I retook it this morning and passed.

I hit up a few places that had been advertised in the ShopperInc, which is the local free newspaper in town, and one of the best sources for finding a job, in addition to jobsnd.com.  You can view the newspaper online.

I applied at CalFrac, SOSStaffing (which staffs for Schlumberger), Sun Well Services, and Sanjel.  The manager at Sanjel wants me to come back tomorrow morning, where I think he might offer a job.  Their Frackers make about $80,000 the first year, working a 2/1 (14 days on, 6 off) schedule.  It seems like an upper tier company from what I have observed.  They have an attractive new building next to the Haliburton building east on Broadway in town, as opposed to a small trailer like alot of the oil well servicers here.  Sanjel also provides housing, which is a bonus, since apartment/housing prices here, if you can find vacancies, are exorbitant.  If I want to move my family out here, they also provide family housing: 3 br modular homes with internet, cable, and utilities inclusive at $1,500/mo.  That sure beats the $3,000+/mo flat rent for anything else here in town.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day Four

So, I hit the pavement today stopping by the various oil company offices in town (there's supposed to be over 150), and every oil servicing job I have come across requries a commercial driver's license (CDL).  The written portion seems like a fairly easy exam, and can be taken at the DMV here in town.  Passage of the written portion entitles you to a driving permit (sort of like a driving permit when you're 15, in that you can drive so long as a CDL holder is in the vehicle).  The road portion of the exam, also offered at the DMV, is a little more difficult.  One has to have both their own truck and, of course, be proficient in operating it.  The good thing, though, is that if you have the permit, most of the companies here are willing to higher you with the expectation that you will obtain the full license within the following six month window allowed by the DMV.  Since a lot of companies here value having the Hazmat license certification as well, it's not a bad idea to take that test along with the general CDL test (the Hazmat test is optional).  I've been studying the ND CDL manual all this afternoon, and I'll be taking the written exam first thing in the morning.

Day Three

Went to church today.  Getting that edification is important to keeping your spirits high and staying inspired.  Also, the feeling of being amongst a family is important since I'm out here alone.  I was able to network and find out a ton of information about the area and the oil industry, as well.  Finally, I received no less than three invitations from people to stay at their homes till I find longer-term accomodations.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Videos on the way to and in Williston

Here's some videos I took on the way into Williston. If you want to get a better feel of the look in the town, check out street views on Google Earth.

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Articles about the Williston oil boom

Here's a short list of articles commenting on the the Williston oil boom.  I'll add more to this list as I see them.  Feel free to add a link in the comments below:

1.  Halliburton to Hire 11,000 In 2011  Yahoo! Finance

2.  Kuwait on the Prairie  The New Yorker

3.  Unemployed? Go to North Dakota  USA Today

4. New Boom Reshapes Oil World; Rocks North Dakota  NPR

Day Two

It's Saturday, which is a bad time for someone looking for work.  The oil workers are still working, but all the administrative staff, including HR personnel, are off for the weekend.  Right now, I'm back at the town library, since they have free Wi-Fi.  For those looking for a place to wash up, the library has one of those private handicap access bathrooms. 

I picked up some goods at the Wal-mart this morning.  I got a cooler and some ice for perishables, and a DC-to-AC inverter to run my laptop in my car.  That way, when I sleep in the Library parking lot again tonight, I can watch some online TV or movies, since the library's Wi-Fi seems to still run after hours (at least it did last night).

People have been warning me about the ensuing winter like a war is coming.  Temperatures this week, though, are pleasant, in the 70-80s, as if this were the calm before the storm.  At nighttime, though, it does dip pretty low, so the sleeping bag I brought is coming in handy.
Most of the migrant labor here right now is 20-40 year old white males.  There are very few blacks, and only a little more Hispanics.  I heard the beginnings of the boom times in Detroit and Chicago were the same way.  I’m not sure why this is, but it might be because whites often have more resources to be able to pack up and go.  There might be some other reason, though, considering that a lot of the guys here worked in the construction industry, and are flat broke as a result of the Man-cession.  Whatever the reason is, a lot of the people back in Detroit could use a trip out here. 
Take the guy from Vegas last night.  For him, the alternative to coming here was food stamps and foreclosure.  I didn't ask if he was bankrupt, but I imagine a lot of workers here have gone through that as well.  For me, bankruptcy was on the horizon.  The guy from Vegas said he has a "woman" and kids back there.  When I asked him if he planned on bringing them out here, he replied "Hell no, I'm never moving here!"  From what I have observed so far, people aren't here cause they want to be…they’re here cause they have to be.  Although the oil fields pay well, that is not the prime motivation for guys coming here...desperation is.  It just helps to boost their pride and self-worth, which for a lot of guys here has been battered since the downturn.

Vegas guy was boasting to me that with his skills and experience, he is worth $40/hr and was making more than that back in '07.  For a lot of these casualties of the Man-cession, they still seem to think that a private sector blue collar worker without a college degree is worth more than $15/hr.  Somehow they didn't get the memo that their wages before were, along with housing prices, inflated by a toxic cocktail of securities backed by no-prior screening/$0 down mortgages, Fannie Mae and Community Reinvestment Acts, and Chinese savings rates. The inflated wages of the "bubble" here just reinforces their thinking.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day One

Today, I arrived in Williston, ND.  My journey began two weeks ago, after I saw the hour-long episode of Mad Money with Jim Kramer dedicated to the Williston oil play. The CEO of Halliburton said guys with a HS diploma were raking in $130K annually after 18 months. I did some research and came to the conclusion that the $40,800/year I was making as an International Trade Analyst for JPMorgan Chase was not cutting it.  Within a week, I had given my two weeks notice, taking my first spin on the roulette table Williston.


I flew out to WY where my in-laws live.  My wife and kids were already here visiting.  My father-in-law has loaned me his mini-van that has 126,000 mi and a worn out rear wheel bearing that growls.  I imagine myself as a modern day '49er, and this minivan is my stubborn mule that occasionally growls at me disapprovingly.

This evening, there was a homecoming football game at the local high school.  The streets around the school (I was using the internet across the street at the town library) were packed.  There seems to be a parallel world here in town.  On one side is the local population: residents who predate the recent oil boom.  They have a happy demeanor.  They are benefiting by geographic happenstance from their proximity to what has been called the biggest oil discovery in North America (which I would believe includes the Canadian oil sands) in 40 years; surpassing even Prudhoe Bay, AK.  In many ways, they are indeed similar to the Kuwaitis and their neighbors in the nearby Emirates.  This place, located in an inhospitable, undesirable part of the country, has been blessed by freaking huge oil resources.  The town is booming, and the locals know it.  Their disposition is the opposite of the rest of the recessionary country.  Where I most recently came from, the Detroit suburbs and upstate NY a year before that, peoples' demeanor is depressed; people look empty, as if hope, and the inner light that goes with it, has been dimmed beyond recognition, if not completely extinguished.  Their heads hang down, and they have this small distraction in their eyes, as if their minds are somewhere else, worrying about something else.  People here, though, look like the rest of country did circa 2006, when we still had financial peace of mind and blissful ignorance toward the ensuing implosion.  This town is getting new everything, and all the locals have to do is go on with their lives as usual.  They pass by the non-resident workers, unnoticingly, like the Kuwaitis or Emiratis do passed the Filipinos and South Asian migrant workers.  So far, my impression is not necessarily that they look on the foreign-state migrants as sub-class citizens, like the Emiratis do, but they definitely have a look of being of the privileged.  See, from what I understand, life here for a migrant worker is hard; hard as hell.  The locals don't experience that, though.

To a stranger like myself, this town is like Tortuga, minus the wenches.  Oil field workers are gruff looking men, the kind you see hitching rides on interstate entrances.  They are the modern progeny of pirates.  Long greasy hair, 3-month shadows, and filthy clothes is the norm.  It's like the early audience of UFC fighting was transplanted here.  Standard transportation is a pickup truck (one that might be new, but you couldn't tell through the film of dust that settles on everything) or a tractor trailer.  There are literally more tractors trailers here than cars.  Not all, though, are 18-wheelers.  Some are dump trucks, water trucks, etc.

I talked to a guy from Vegas tonight at the Williston McDonald's, which doubles as the town internet cafe.  His advice to me was that if I want to get a job, I need to lose the polo shirt I was wearing, get some dirt stains on my jeans, and get a pair of old work boots.  Its seems that even here, appearance is everything.

Well, it's getting late, and McDonald's indoor area is closing (drive-thru's still open!), so I gotta head.  Apparently, the Walmart parking lot, which previously doubled as the Hotel Williston for men sleeping in their cars, has now started to kick people out who are camping there.  So, I have to find a chill place to rest tonight.  I have an air mattress laid down in the back of the mini-van (we took out the rear seating), so I should be alright.  I'll probably still brush my teeth and wash my armpits in the Walmart bathroom.

To think that this is the life of a recent law school grad, like myself, licensed in the state of NY.  Whatever it takes to feed the wife and kids.  Let's see if riches await.