Farmers push for greater distance between oil wells, houses

Wanda and Frank Leppell, pictured Wednesday on the edge of their property near Keene, N.D., have three oil wells about one-fourth mile from their house and they’re working with legislators to prevent wells from getting any closer. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

KEENE, N.D. – Frank and Wanda Leppell already have three oil wells one-quarter mile from their front picture window. They don’t want wells any closer.

“That’s the view we’re going to have for the rest of our lives,” said Frank, who watched the wells get drilled from his living room.

The McKenzie County farmers and ranchers are pushing for new legislation that would require oil wells to be located 1,000 feet away from homes instead of the current setback of 500 feet.

“We decided enough’s enough,” Wanda said. “Just give us some breathing room and we’ll give you (the oil industry) some breathing room.”

The lifelong western North Dakota residents say they’re not opposed to oil development, but they worry about the possibility of a fire or a spill close to their home and they’re concerned about the safety of their grandchildren when they visit.

But opponents of increasing the setback – which is proposed in two similar bills – say it would have unintended consequences that could negatively affect landowners.

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing today on House Bill 1348, which would increase the setback requirement to 1,320 feet, or one-fourth of a mile.

Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, is expected to testify in opposition to that bill. Helms told members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission last week that the state has worked hard to get oil wells in east-west corridors and increasing the setback would have negative consequences for pipeline networks.

The Leppells were among Bakken landowners who testified last week in favor of Senate Bill 2206, which the couple worked with Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, to introduce. They own 30 acres and lease about 4,000 acres of cropland and pasture about 25 miles northeast of Watford City.

This was the scene near Wanda and Frank Leppells’ home on on Jan. 9, 2013. Photo by Wanda Leppell.

The couple estimates that 21 oil wells are either staked or permitted within two miles of their home, with some wells staked within 700 or 800 feet of their home. Wanda points out that the setback requirement is the distance from “occupied dwellings,” not their property line.

“We moved out here to be alone,” said Frank, who has worked in the oil industry. “We didn’t move out here to have company.”

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, testified last week against the Leppells’ proposal and said it would have negative environmental consequences, according to his written testimony.

Increasing the setbacks would reduce the flexibility in deciding the best location of a well and would discourage the centralized placement of facilities, Ness said. It also would result in longer drilling time, increased truck traffic, decrease in wildlife habitat and open space and loss of farmland, he said.

The setbacks were increased from 350 feet to 500 feet in 2006, Ness said.

Several other oil-related bills also will have hearings today during the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting, including a bill related to surface owner protection and reclamation and mediation of mineral developer and surface owner disputes.

Report highlights need for well inspections

WILLISTON, N.D. – A report released Tuesday criticizes state and federal agencies for falling behind with regulating oil and gas activity, but says North Dakota is doing better than other western states.

The “Law and Order in the Oil and Gas Fields” report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils and the Dakota Resource Council calls for more inspectors to keep up with expanding oil development.

Donald Nelson, a Keene-area rancher and member of the resource councils, said even though North Dakota compares favorably to other states in the study, which were Montana, Wyoming Colorado and New Mexico, the number of new oil wells is growing at a faster rate than the number of regulators.

“We want to be able to rely on the Oil and Gas Division to protect our land and water, but they can’t do that unless they slow down and staff up, Nelson said. “It’s time to get some more cops on the beat.”

Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources, said he agrees, which is why he’s requesting a 30 percent staff increase for his department during this legislative session.

Of the 23 new positions Helms is asking for, 13 would be new inspectors.

The report suggests that state and federal agencies inspect every well once a year, but Helms said North Dakota far exceeds that.

“We think we’re a world leader in this area,” Helms said.

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources aims to:

— Inspect every drilling rig one to two times per week.

— Inspect every salt water injection well every month.

— Inspect every producing well four times per year.

Helms said his department is keeping up with the rig inspections and injection well inspections, but producing well inspections have fallen to twice a year. The staff increase request would allow the department to meet those goals, Helms said.

The report showed that the number of active wells per inspector has been steadily increasing in North Dakota and was 540 in 2011. However, other states had much higher numbers, ranging from Montana with 1,573 wells per inspector to Colorado with 5,204 wells per inspector.

The report shows that North Dakota conducted fewer well inspections in 2011 compared with previous years at a time when oil activity was expanding in the state.

The number of inspections for 2011 was 31,159, compared with 36,241 the previous year. Helms said the decrease is because inspectors focused on inspecting drilling rigs, which takes much longer than inspecting producing wells.

In 2012, additional staff members were added and the number of inspections conducted grew to 42,626, Helms said. The report did not cover 2012.

The report also criticized the Bureau of Land Management, which it said inspects wells once every 2.3 years on average in North Dakota and once every 4.8 years nationwide.

James Albano, chief of the Branch of Fluid Minerals for the BLM, said in a statement the agency has made great strides to tackle the huge workload from the Bakken.

In addition, the report calls for state and federal agencies to assess greater penalties for violations.

Faces of the Boom: Bismarck man aims to bridge gap between conservation, oil industry

Terry Fleck, pictured in his home office in Bismarck with walleye he caught in Lake Sakakawea, is helping energy companies and conservation groups work together to protect the North Dakota outdoors. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

BISMARCK, N.D. – When Terry Fleck goes fishing or hunting, he aims to leave the area better than how he found it.

That’s the same attitude the Bismarck man hopes oil and gas companies will have about development in North Dakota.

Fleck spent 30 years in the radio and television industry and retired to become a public speaker known as The Attitude Doctor.

Now Fleck is using his skills as a communicator to bring together the oil industry with outdoor and wildlife groups to promote energy development while minimizing the impact to the state he loves.

“We would hope that North Dakota is a better place after this, if and when it ends,” he said.

Fleck, both an avid outdoorsman and a partner in an energy company, believes there’s room for both interests in the state. He brought together oil companies and wildlife and conservation groups to form the Sporting and Oil Industry Forum, which has developed best practices for the industry to follow and continues to meet regularly.

“We have much to protect. This is a unique part of the world,” said Fleck, originally from the small town of Flasher. “How do we protect those quiet places and make sure we still have some?”

Fleck has a front-row seat to the oil boom from his lake home on the Van Hook Arm of Lake Sakakawea, where he has watched oilfield traffic become more intense and job opportunities expand for his neighbors.

“That’s where my understanding and my background came from in watching my friends and neighbors at the lake who lived in the Bakken suddenly begin to experience tremendous lifestyle changes,” he said.

Fleck, who calls himself a “fanatic fisherman,” serves as chairman of Friends of Lake Sakakawea, which helped push for the oil industry to develop the Sakakawea Area Spill Response.

He is a partner in Intervention Energy, a privately held non-operating oil and gas company started by Minot, N.D., native John Zimmerman, Fleck’s former neighbor.

Fleck also serves as the volunteer chairman of the North Dakota Energy Forum, a group committed to improving the understanding of oil and gas development in the state.

That varied background is what helped Fleck see the need to help bridge the gap between industry and outdoor and wildlife groups. The group will have its fourth meeting in March.

“My belief is we will accomplish more and will have a greater end result if we all stay at the table,” Fleck said. “Is that going to be easy? No. We wouldn’t exist if it were going to be easy.”

Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said he can’t think of a better facilitator than Fleck to get oil companies and conservation groups working together.

“To get those very diametrically different missions together in the same room, I think that was a task in itself,” Steinwand said.

Participation has remained strong from both sides, and Steinwand said he expects the group to keep moving in the right direction.

“This has some staying power,” he said.

By setting an example and communicating their passion for the state, outdoorsmen and women can help the oil industry minimize its footprint on the land, Fleck said.

“I’m a guy who believes given the passion that we all have for this, that we can make this work,” he said.

Killdeer Mountain drilling approved late Thursday

Archaeologist Valerie Bluemle, with the sign, and others attend a meeting of the North Dakota Industrial Commission Thursday involving an oil development proposal in the Killdeer Mountains. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Industrial Commission unanimously approved late Thursday a plan to drill for oil in an area of the Killdeer Mountains that received widespread opposition, but added several stipulations to address some of the concerns.

Denying a request from Hess Corp. to drill up to eight wells in the Killdeer Mountains would leave 3.5 million barrels of oil in the ground and waste $250 million, said Lynn Helms, director for the Department of Mineral Resources.

But landowners, American Indians, archaeologists and others who attended the commission’s meeting Thursday said the state should also consider the value of the area’s beauty and historical and cultural significance.

The Industrial Commission, which consists of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, discussed the matter for more than two hours Thursday in a meeting attended by about 50 people. They invited public comment even though it was not a public hearing.

Commissioners said they wanted to take the matter under advisement and continued the rest of their agenda from the governor’s conference room, acting on the proposal hours later after members of the public had left.

Dalrymple said after their meeting had adjourned that commissioners needed to get to other items on the long agenda so individuals involved in those matters could get home. Members of the public could have stayed if they wished, Dalrymple said.

Rob Sand, a member of the Killdeer Mountain Alliance who was among the people who spoke during the meeting, said he was disappointed by the outcome.

“There was a lot that we offered that they apparently chose not to consider.”
Sand said he was grateful commissioners heard public comments, but he was surprised they didn’t act on the proposal in front of the interested parties if they knew how they were going to vote.

Among those who spoke during the meeting was Theodora Birdbear of Mandaree who said members of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation use the Killdeer Mountains as an area for prayer and the industrialization of the area would affect the spiritual experience.

“It’s kind of equivalent to having an oil well right beside your Catholic church. It’s parallel to that,” she said.

Several urged the Industrial Commission to delay oil development in the area until technology advancements can allow companies to drill from farther away or until an archaeological study can be completed. The site is about 3 miles from the historical marker for the Battle of Killdeer Mountain and an archaeologist plans to study the area as soon as this year.

But commission members said they also have a constitutional responsibility to mineral owners who would want to see the minerals developed in their lifetimes. Because the section of land is owned by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands, there also is an obligation to develop the minerals for the benefit of K-12 education, commission members said.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep that feeling and at the same time be responsible to our school children and the other people that also have rights here,” Dalrymple said.

The commission approved the request with these stipulations:


  • Hess would provide seven-day notice to the State Historical Society prior to site construction so an independent archaeologist could be on site during construction.
  • One pad location that contained a known artifact would be constructed with fill material so no excavation would be needed in an effort to preserve potential artifacts. Helms estimates this would cost Hess an additional $200,000.
  • Hydraulic fracturing could only occur between June 1 and Aug. 15 to minimize truck traffic on a school bus route, which was another concern raised by opponents.
  • Hess will eliminate flaring of natural gas as much as possible. Helms said Hess plans to have a system of pipelines to gather crude and natural gas to make flaring minimal and reduce truck traffic.

In addition, Hess will be asked to work with landowner Loren Jepson to develop access to the wells that would minimize impact to residents, Dalrymple said.

During the meeting, Stenehjem said the decision is part of a larger issue he’d like the commission to discuss about how certain areas of the state may be protected.
“They love their area and who can blame them. It’s a gorgeous area,” he said. “I think that’s a bigger issue we need to talk about.”


Refinery backers trying to fix tax exemption ‘fiasco’

BISMARCK – Backers of a new refinery in North Dakota say a bill asking for a tax exemption for oil refined in the state was a “fiasco,” but a corrected bill expected to be filed today would benefit the state.

Chester Trabucco, chairman and CEO of Dakota Oil Processing, which is developing a diesel refinery near Trenton, said a bill that was unanimously rejected in the House seeking an exemption from the 6.5 percent oil extraction tax for oil refined in North Dakota should not have been introduced.

Instead, Dakota Oil Processing is seeking an exemption that would only occur during months when the average profit margin for a refinery in the state dropped below $11 a barrel – a situation that has not occurred in the past three years, Trabucco said.

Dakota Oil Processing is in the final stages of financing the $200 million refinery and the exemption they’re working with legislators to propose would help secure private funding.

“It’s sure comforting to a bank or other lenders to know that if you did dip below (the profit margin) that there is some assistance,” Trabucco said.

The Dakota Oil Processing facility, which is not far from the heart of oil activity in Williston, would receive up to 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day and distribute between 6,000 and 8,000 barrels of diesel daily for use in North Dakota.

“Diesel is running your state,” said Trabucco, who is based in Seattle. “The ag sector depends on it heavily and the oil sector depends on it heavily.”

Mel Falcon, a Trenton native who serves as vice chairman of Dakota Oil Processing and has been working to develop this refinery since 2007, said a one-sentence bill draft that got sent to the House was a mix-up.

“That was a fiasco to start with,” Falcon said. “It failed miserably because it wasn’t a very good bill. It was just lousy.”

The North Dakota Chamber of Commerce testified against the bill, which was House Bill 1032. The state Tax Department estimated that North Dakota would lose more than $258 million in revenue over the next two years based on production at the Tesoro refinery in Mandan, currently the only refinery in the state.

Falcon said the bill was perceived as giving Tesoro a windfall, but that’s not what proponents intended.

“Poor Tesoro got the brunt of it and had nothing to do with it,” Falcon said.

Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, said he expects to file a new bill today that calls for an exemption in the oil extraction tax only when the profit margin – known as a crack spread in the oil industry – hits a certain trigger.

Lyson said he’s introducing the bill for a constituent and he believes it deserves a hearing.

“Anything that we can do that is going to benefit the state of North Dakota, I’m willing to give it a shot, take a look at it and see if it’s the right thing for us,” Lyson said.

Sen. John Andrist, R-Crosby, said he plans to sign as a co-sponsor.

“Anything we do to encourage building refineries takes some of those trucks off the road,” Andrist said.

Although the bill is backed by Dakota Oil Processing, it would benefit all refineries in North Dakota. At least two other refineries are in the works – one involving the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation and the other near Dickinson involving a partnership with WBI Energy, a business arm of MDU Resources Group, and Calumet Refining LLC.

The last major refinery built in the lower 48 states of the United States began operating in 1977 in Garyville, La., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

North Dakota currently imports about 40 percent of its diesel, Trabucco said.

“Even if all three of the refineries are successful, the total amount of new diesel production will not equal what is now being imported into the state,” he said.

A second piece of legislation supported by Dakota Oil Processing also is key to making the project more attractive to lenders, Trabucco said.

House Bill 1031, which has been unanimously approved by the House, adds “refinery” to the definition of “pipeline” for the purpose of falling under the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. That’s significant because the Pipeline Authority has the ability to issue bonds up to $800 million.

However, Dakota Oil Processing also is pushing to establish $200 million in a reserve fund under the Pipeline Authority that would provide leverage to help the refinery and other projects secure private loans.

Craig Richards, an Alaska attorney who is working with Dakota Oil Processing, said Alaska has set up similar reserve funds with revenue from oil exploration for economic development.

But the $200 million reserve fund is not currently included in House Bill 1031.

Fargo Jet Center announces Williston expansion

Oilfield workers arrive Wednesday on a charter flight to Williston, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – The Fargo Jet Center announced Wednesday it plans to expand to Williston to help meet the booming demand for oilfield-related private air service.

Darren Hall, vice president of marketing for Fargo Jet Center, said officials have been watching the expansion of air traffic in western North Dakota and they believe a new Williston Jet Center can greatly improve the service.

A 6,400-square-foot passenger facility will be constructed adjacent to the main terminal at Sloulin Field International Airport. It’s expected to begin operating this summer, Hall said.

The Williston Jet Center will offer aircraft fueling, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, aircraft charter management and aircraft sales.

“We believe the level of service can be brought up to a much higher level than it is today,” Hall said.

The oil boom has significantly increased private air service to Williston with oilfield crews, business executives and investors regularly flying in and out of the city, said Steven Kjergaard, airport manager.

In 2012, Williston had about 13,000 enplanements – or passengers boarding planes – related to the oil industry, Kjergaard said.

On Wednesday, which is often the busiest day with oilfield crews flying in and out on charter planes, 15 to 20 aircraft were on the ramp, Kjergaard said, adding that activity is even busier in the summer.

Western Edge Aviation already operates as a fixed-base operator at the Williston airport and the new Williston Jet Center would be a competitor.

Ed Fandrich, who manages Western Edge Aviation in Williston, said the demand for air service keeps them busy, but he’s not sure there’s room for two fixed-base operators.

“I think it will have a harmful effect on our business,” Fandrich said.

The Williston Jet Center will be constructed in an area that is now a parking lot between the Western Edge Aviation building and the main passenger terminal. Sloulin Field already has a shortage of parking, but Hall said the plan calls for reconfiguring the parking in a way that will actually result in more parking spaces.

Kjergaard said he had not yet seen their parking plan.

Discussions are underway to construct a new airport for Williston, which is also seeing huge increases in demand for commercial air service. Hall said Jet Center officials recognize they could have to move to a new location in a few years if a new airport is approved.

The Williston Jet Center will have the same high level of service, including rolling out a red carpet for passengers, that the center does in Fargo, Hall said.

“It will become the welcome mat to the people visiting Williston,” Hall said.

Hoeven urges Obama to approve Keystone XL pipeline

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Hoeven is calling on President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline without further delay now that Nebraska has approved an alternative route through the state.


Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman on Tuesday notified the Obama administration that he has approved the pipeline, saying its new route will avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region, according to a press release from Hoeven’s office.


In November, Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., organized a letter signed by 18 senators, nine Republicans and nine Democrats, calling on Obama to approve the project once Nebraska’s concerns were addressed. Hoeven said he is now gathering signatures for a second bipartisan letter urging Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline without further delay.


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., is among those who have signed. Hoeven also is preparing to reintroduce legislation enabling Congress to approve the pipeline if the president doesn’t.


“The president has long-cited Nebraska’s concerns as a reason not to approve the project, but now that those concerns have been addressed, there is no reason to further delay a project that will create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity for the United States,” Hoeven said in a statement.


The pipeline would not run through North Dakota, but would transport crude oil pumped from the Bakken. The route runs from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to Cushing, Okla., where it would connect to the southern portion of the pipeline.


“In North Dakota, we know that the Keystone XL Pipeline means American jobs, increased energy security, and the certainty that comes from dealing with our neighbors to the north,” Heitkamp said in a statement.

Fracking death ruled accidental, caused by chest, abdominal injuries

BISMARCK – A Duluth, Minn., man who died at a hydraulic fracturing site Saturday died of chest and abdominal injuries when he was hit by oilfield equipment, the North Dakota Medical Examiner’s Office said in a report issued Tuesday.
The report of death for Mike Krajewski, 49, who worked for Halliburton, ruled his death an accident caused by oilfield equipment that was dislodged by high pressure, striking Krajewski in the chest. The accident occurred about 3:30 p.m. Saturday about 24 miles north of Watford City, N.D.
A team from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration began investigating at the site Tuesday, said Eric Brooks, area director for the Bismarck OSHA office.
A second man, Brad Hong, 55, Halliday, N.D., was injured in the fracking incident.
OSHA also is planning to investigate the site of an oilfield tank battery explosion northwest of Williston that injured two men Friday, but the fatality is taking first priority, Brooks said.

Faces of the Boom: Oil boom hasn’t changed old-fashioned gas station

Don Trotter, pictured Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, owns an old-fashioned convenience store in Grassy Butte, N.D. “You ain’t going to find another like it,” he says. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

GRASSY BUTTE, N.D. – The oil boom has changed a lot in western North Dakota, but locals here can still depend on one tiny convenience store.

Beicegel Station in the unincorporated community of Grassy Butte has all the groceries and necessities locals need, free coffee in the morning and owners who’d get out of bed to help a stranded motorist.

“You ain’t going to find another one like it,” owner Don Trotter said of the store.

Motorists pump gas with antique fuel pumps at the station, which Don owns with his wife, Vickie.

While many Oil Patch gas stations now require drivers to pre-pay for fuel, motorists here fill up and then tell Don how much they pumped, all on the honor system.

Locals and some businesses charge fuel, groceries and other purchases to their accounts and Vickie bills them at the end of the month.

“It’s just like the old days,” Don said.

The shop, which the Trotters have owned for about 15 years, had steady business before the oil boom.

Nikki McAlpin, who ranches near Grassy Butte and recently began working at the shop, said locals usually go shopping in Dickinson about once a month and rely on the local store between trips.

“This store for us has always been our local grab,” said McAlpin as she restocked chewing tobacco on a recent afternoon. “We depend on it, actually.”

Now the store, just off of U.S. Highway 85 south of Watford City, sees a lot of new faces as oil development ramps up in the area.

“Now it’s just busier,” Don said.

The station opens at 6:30 a.m., and Don has trained most people not to arrive any earlier.

The store offers a little bit of everything, from milk to plumbing supplies to auto parts and tire repairs. Ranchers gather around a table in the morning for free coffee.

“We try to close at 5:30, but it rarely happens,” Don said. “I try to close on Sundays. It doesn’t usually work.”

One new challenge the couple has is encountering desperate drivers who run out of gas and don’t have money to pay.

“They come up here and they have no money and they can’t quite make it to Williston, the land of opportunity. They’re just stuck out here in the middle of nowhere,” Vickie said.

The Trotters used to trust people to pay them back, but now they ask motorists to leave something of value behind.

“We’ve always trusted people to pay us back, and now it’s kind of a harder time,” Vickie said. “Many times we never see them again.”

The store’s phone number rings at the Trotters’ home and it sometimes rings at night if someone finds the number on the Internet or on the sign at the store.

One pet-peeve Vickie has is they’ll get called out of bed to open the store and the driver will only put in enough fuel to make it to the next town where they can save 5 cents a gallon.

“If you ever run out of gas and you call somebody out of bed, fill up your tank, at least,” Vickie said.

A new truck stop being built on the intersection of highways 85 and 200 could change things for the store. But Vickie, who also works as a production clerk for oil and gas company Petro-Hunt, said they’re not worried.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Vicki said. “Maybe we can close it up and retire, but for now, it’s like you have to help the people.”

Duluth man dies in oilfield accident north of Watford City

Mike Krajewski of Duluth, Minn., seen here in a photo from summer 2012, died Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, in an accident at an oil well north of Watford City, N.D.

Amy Dalrymple and Peter Passi
Forum News Service

A Duluth, Minn., man who died in an accident at a hydraulic fracturing site Saturday north of Watford City, N.D., was a family man and Air Force veteran who was proud of the work he was doing in North Dakota, his family said Sunday.

Mike Krajewski, 49, a father of three, died in an incident about 3:30 p.m. Saturday at a Halliburton fracking location about 24 miles north of Watford City, according to the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration will conduct a complete investigation, said Sgt. Matt Johansen. Preliminary information indicates that while Krajewski was working, a valve was turned wrong and “somehow a pipe came disconnected and ending up hitting him in the head,” Johansen said.

Greg Krajewski of Belle Fourche, S.D., a brother of Mike Krajewski, said the family has been told that Mike died instantly, and an autopsy will be performed Tuesday.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process to extract oil and gas underground using pressurized fluids and sand. Mike’s job involved pumping fluids at high pressures, Greg said.

Another worker, Brad Hong, 55, of Halliday, N.D., also was hurt Saturday and taken by private vehicle to the McKenzie County Hospital for injuries that were believed to be minor, Johansen said. A hospital official said there was no information available about Hong on Sunday.

A Halliburton spokeswoman said the company will continue to work with local authorities as they investigate the incident. The company said it was not releasing additional information out of respect for the family’s privacy.

“This is a very difficult time for all of us at Halliburton, and our thoughts and prayers are with our employee’s loved ones,” the company said in a statement.

Mike Krajewski was born in California but moved to Duluth, his father’s hometown, as a youth and graduated from Duluth East High School in 1981. He married his high school sweetheart, Lisa, and the couple went on to have three daughters: Ashley, 19; Brianna, 16; and Rachel, 11.

Shortly after graduating from high school, Krajewski joined the U.S. Air Force, where he worked as a firefighter for several years.

After serving in the military, Krajewski went on to become a crash rescue fireman as part of a civilian fire department at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb., where he quickly worked his way up to the rank of captain.

Krajewski next decided to return to Duluth and launch his own painting business.

Last year, he decided to shift gears. After talking to an old friend from his early firefighting days who had found employment with Halliburton, Krajewski joined the company himself.

“He (Mike) was very excited about the opportunity,” said another brother, Joe Krajewski of Duluth. He explained that his brother hoped that after serving on a fracking crew, he would be able to work his way into a firefighting position, as his friend had.

Mike Krajewski was proud of working on a fracking crew in North Dakota and talked about it often, Greg Krajewski said.

“By doing what he was doing, he felt like he was a part of something to help our energy crisis,” he said.

Mike, the oldest of six siblings, adjusted to working a few weeks in North Dakota and then having a week off to spend time with his family in Duluth, Greg said.

“He (Mike) was the eternal optimist,” Joe Krajewski said. “He used the strength of his family and humor to endure the difficult times and was brilliant and humble through the best of times.”

Joe Krajewski said his brother was unafraid to take on new challenges.

“He always dug in his heels and did what needed to be done with his chin held high. He had a lot to be proud of accomplishing in his short life,” Joe said. “He (Mike) will be sorely missed but never forgotten.”

Perhaps more than anything else, Joe Krajewski said his brother will be remembered for his compassion.

“He wore his heart on his sleeve, and whenever someone needed him, they did not need to ask. He was just there,” he said. “For as strong of a man as he was, Mike was also tender. If the measure of a man is his family, then he was the gold standard.”

In addition to his wife and children, Krajewski is survived by his parents, Dennis and Joyce Krajewski of Duluth, as well as two brothers and three sisters.