Faces of the Boom: Family from Washington state grows attached to North Dakota

Carolynn Robinson, pictured Friday, April 4, 2014, near Powers Lake, N.D., works as an equipment operator for B&G Oilfield Services. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

POWERS LAKE, N.D. – When Carolynn Robinson and her husband moved from Washington state to North Dakota to work in the oilfields, they thought it would just be a summer gig.

But the move worked out so well, they decided to stay.

“We’re getting more and more attached to North Dakota,” said Robinson, who moved to the state about two years ago.

Lack of work in their home state prompted them to move to North Dakota.

Robinson’s husband, Travis, came to North Dakota first, and now works as a pipeline welder.

Robinson followed after budget cuts caused her to get laid off from her job with the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, where she operated equipment to clear logging roads.

Her job in North Dakota also involves running heavy equipment – which she has done for nearly 15 years – but now she works on oilfield locations.

“My skills have become more diversified and I’ve learned a lot,” said Robinson, who works for B&G Oilfield Services of Williston.

On Friday, Robinson was operating a backhoe and blade at oil well sites near Power Lake. She also installs pipeline, runs a bulldozer and does labor work, typically working six 12-hour days a week.

“I do a little bit of everything,” she said.

Robinson has female co-workers, but she’s the only female worker for B&G who operates heavy equipment. Throughout the Bakken, she’s noticed more women and families than she did her first year in North Dakota.

“I think word’s getting out that it’s not the wild, crazy oilfield like everybody has the interpretation that it is,” Robinson said. “It can be family-friendly, so wives and families are moving out.”

Robinson and her husband have six children, ranging in age from 10 to 21. Three of their children live with them in North Dakota, along with their oldest daughter’s husband, who also works in the Bakken.

They rented a couple of different places before finding their current home in Alexander, which is between Williston and Watford City and a convenient location for their jobs. Finding a place large enough was challenging until their 10-year-old son learned his friend was moving away, which opened up a house in town.

Rent is expensive, but they’re able to afford it with two oilfield salaries.

“We’ve been fortunate out here. It’s given us the ability to get ahead,” Robinson said. “Back home we were struggling and out here it’s much easier.”

Robinson said it was difficult to move away from their extended family in Washington, but now many other relatives are following them to pursue North Dakota job opportunities.

The family spends a lot of time at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and enjoyed ice fishing for the first time this year. They still have their home in Washington and planned to return, but now they’re thinking they might not move back until retirement.

“For right now, we’re getting comfortable and enjoying everything North Dakota has to offer,” Robinson said.

Refineries gaining steam, but capacity would be ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to N.D. output

WILLISTON, N.D. – While the United States hasn’t seen a new refinery in more than 30 years, North Dakota has five refineries proposed that range from planning stages to active construction.

Some of the projects have long been on the drawing board, but with MDU Resources constructing its refinery near Dickinson, the others could be closer to reality, said the head of North Dakota’s oil industry trade group.

“Having one under construction is encouraging more third parties to look at it,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. “I’m sure people are going to be watching that and trying to figure out if they can replicate that model. We’ll take them all.”

North Dakota is expected to hit a milestone this year of producing 1 million barrels of oil per day, but refinery capacity is 68,000 barrels at the Tesoro refinery in Mandan, requiring the rest to be transported out of the state.

Meanwhile, the state’s demand for diesel is about double what the Mandan refinery produces, and projected to keep climbing.

Refining more crude oil in North Dakota means less oil will need leave the state by rail or pipeline.

But the difference in transportation likely won’t be noticeable even if all five refineries are constructed, said Sandy Fielden, managing director of energy analytics at consultant firm RBN Energy.

Each refinery would process 20,000 barrels of oil per day, and the byproducts would still need to be transported for further refining. A unit train transports about 65,000 to 70,000 barrels of oil, with North Dakota currently sending about 10 unit trains out of the state each day.

“These refineries are tiny. That’s a drop in the ocean compared to production,” Fielden said. “It’s not going to make much difference.”

– Dickinson: MDU Resources and partner Calumet Specialty Products LP are constructing the Dakota Prairie Refinery between Dickinson and South Heart, projected to be online by the end of the year.

The refinery will process 20,000 barrels of oil per day to produce about 7,000 barrels of diesel per day.

There is room for four to eight similar refineries in North Dakota before the state would export diesel, said Neil Amondson, vice president for NorthStar Transloading, a partner in the latest refinery proposal publicly announced.

– East Fairview: Quantum Energy Inc. acquired land from NorthStar in East Fairview to construct a 20,000 barrel-per-day refinery west of Watford City near the Montana border. The refinery would be next to the NorthStar rail facility that is set to be under construction this month. Construction of the refinery, expected to take about two years, could begin as early as this summer if the project receives approval from the local township board and an air permit from the state, Amondson said.

– Makoti: Phase one of construction is underway on the Fort Berthold Reservation for the MHA Nation Clean Fuels Refinery near Makoti, which involves construction of a rail loading facility.

The rail facility is expected to be complete in September, said Richard Mayer, CEO of Thunder Butte Petroleum Services, which was established by the Tribal Business Council and operates the facility.

Final completion of the refinery is projected for summer or fall of 2016, Mayer said. The refinery is expected to process 20,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day.

– Trenton: Dakota Oil Processing proposes a 20,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Trenton, a project that has been in the planning stages since 2007.

CEO Steve Schneider said the company is working to finalize a partnership arrangement and could break ground on a refinery this spring. The location is still under review by the Williams County Commission.

“We’re in the final stages of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together,” Schneider said. “It’s a very difficult task from announcement to execution.”

– Devils Lake: Michigan-based American Energy Holdings announced late last year it was considering a 20,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Devils Lake that would produce diesel and aviation fuel.

Devils Lake economic development representatives continue to be in discussions with American Energy Holdings, but no agreements have been reached, said Rachel Lindstrom, executive director of Forward Devils Lake.

A representative from American Eagle Holdings did not respond to a request for comment.

An air quality permit from the North Dakota Department of Health is required before refineries can be constructed. The department granted a permit for the Dickinson refinery, but does not have pending applications for any others, said Craig Thorstenson, with the health department’s Air Quality Division.

The department had issued a permit for a Trenton refinery, but it expired and company officials have not yet applied for a new permit, Thorstenson said. He estimated that it takes four to six months for the permit application to be processed.

The state health department does not have jurisdiction over tribal lands.

Building refineries in North Dakota makes sense economically, given the amount of crude oil in and the demand for diesel, Fielden said. But the costs for several of the projects are estimated in the $250 million to $350 million range.

“They’re quite large investments, so the investors in those kinds of infrastructure typically are pretty concerned to make sure there’s good demand for the output,” Fielden said.

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.

Ness said he’s not aware of new refineries being discussed in other states.

“The only place I hear any discussion about this is North Dakota,” Ness said.

Study of oil from deadly derailment points to Bakken crude’s volatility; more research is on the way

WILLISTON, N.D. – On July 6 last year, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in eastern Canada was left parked on a hillside in Quebec. It rolled backward down the hill, derailing and crashing into a small town, with railcars bursting into flames, killing 47 people.

While investigators pointed early on to the train’s brakes, the violent explosions prompted Canadian officials to question the volatility of the Bakken crude.

The crude oil that train carried had volatility similar to gasoline, said Sylvie Dionne, author of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s laboratory report published last month on samples taken from the train.

The oil had a low flash point, which indicates it would ignite at low temperatures, and a high vapor pressure, which indicates how readily the oil would ignite at the temperature that was prevailing at the time of the derailment, Dionne said.

“Those two conditions together explain why it caught fire so easily,” said Dionne, manager for materials analysis and structures at the TSB. “The large amounts of it, because there were many tank cars and some of them released product, that explains why the fireball is so large.”

Other factors that contributed to the fireball were the rapid rate of release and the oil’s low viscosity, the report found.

The crude oil tested also had a low boiling point, the report said. The low flash point, low boiling point and high vapor pressure suggest the samples contained very light hydrocarbons, the report said.

“The lighter the hydrocarbons that are present in the crude, the more volatile it’s going to be,” Dionne said.

Questions about the volatility of the Bakken crude would come up again with other explosive derailments, including the one near Casselton on Dec. 30.

“We had no idea it was this volatile,” Casselton Fire Chief Tim McClean said in an interview last month, the same day he testified to a congressional committee about responding to the fiery derailment.

A federal study and a study commissioned by the North Dakota Petroleum Council are underway to analyze the characteristics of Bakken crude, but the results are not yet available.

“Bakken crude is comparable to other light sweet crudes according to all the information we have to date, but we know that some have questioned whether it is somehow different,” said Kari Cutting, vice president for the NDPC. “This study will provide a thorough third-party analysis to help regulators and industry determine the facts so we can make decisions based on sound science.”


Canadian investigation

The Canadian report may underestimate the volatility of the crude oil because some of the light hydrocarbons may have evaporated, Dionne said.

The engineering laboratory report analyzed samples from nine non-derailed tank at the end of the train and two tank cars from a different unit train that was transporting crude oil from the same origin in the Bakken.

Other findings include:

– There were multiple sources of ignition at the derailment site, such as damaged power lines.

– The Bakken crude analyzed had characteristics similar to other light, sweet crude oils.

– There was no indication that chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing affected the crude oil.

– The crude had a low sulfur content. Portable detectors used to measure hydrogen sulfide gas during the response did not detect the gas, which is extremely flammable and toxic.

While the report tests many characteristics of the Bakken crude, its scope was limited to the derailment and the Lac-Megantic investigation.

“It’s only applicable to the Bakken crude that was on that train,” Dionne said.

The Transportation Safety Board’s final investigative report on the derailment is still pending.


Industry study

The North Dakota Petroleum Council recently announced it is doing its own study, a Bakken quality assurance study to help ensure public safety and consistent product quality.

The industry group is working with Dallas-based consultant Turner, Mason & Company and an independent commercial laboratory to study the range and variability of Bakken crude oil qualities.

“There’s a lot of independent sampling going on right now,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. “You need to do it across the entire specific areas of the Bakken, so it’s not just a point A or point B.”

The consultant will take multiple samples from 12 locations and six rail depots in North Dakota and Montana, including samples from newer wells and more mature wells.

“We haven’t done this particular type of study and I don’t know that anybody has to be honest with you,” John Auers, executive vice president of Turner, Mason and Co. and head of the study, said in a recent interview.

A progress report on the study will be given in May at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, and results of the study will be shared with PHMSA and the American Petroleum Institute.

“This whole issue of rail and crude has brought that out,” Auers said. “In reality, Bakken isn’t a whole lot different than a lot of other light crudes.”


Federal response

Days after the train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded near Casselton, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a safety alert indicating that Bakken crude may be more flammable than other types of oil.

Inspectors from PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration have been examining the chemical properties of Bakken crude through unannounced spot inspections and data collections.

Based on preliminary findings, PHMSA and FRA expanded the investigation to include bottom sediment and water, true vapor pressure, hydrogen sulfide, concentration limits of flammability and corrosiveness to steel and aluminum.

The results have not yet been released.

PHMSA issued an emergency order that requires crude oil shipments to be designated as Packing Group I or II, requiring the oil to be shipped in stronger rail cars.

PHMSA has proposed $93,000 in fines against three companies the agency says failed to properly classify Bakken crude. The agency’s legal counsel is reviewing responses from the three companies, a PHMSA spokesman said.

In January, the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigated the Casselton derailment, issued recommendations to PHMSA and the FRA.

One recommendation would require trying to avoid shipping hazardous materials though populated and sensitive areas. A second recommendation is to ensure rail carriers can handle the worst-case scenarios of a hazardous materials accident. A third recommendation called for checking on shippers and rail carriers to ensure they are properly classifying hazardous materials and have adequate safety and security plans.

“If unit trains of flammable liquids are going to be part of our nation’s energy future, we need to make sure the hazardous materials classification is accurate, the route is well planned, and the tank cars are as robust as possible,” NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman said at the time.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said it’s important to get the results of the PHMSA study to inform regulations. While many are now saying that Bakken crude is more flammable, Heitkamp said she wants to see the results of the study.

“I suspect that might be true, but until I see test results, I’m going to withhold judgment,” she said.

Heitkamp said she wants the PHMSA study to be thorough, but hopes to see results within weeks.

“We need to move forward on regulation,” she said.

Mobile clinics planned by Sanford currently illegal in Williston

WILLISTON, N.D. – Sanford Health plans to bring two multimillion-dollar mobile clinics to the Bakken to meet health care needs, but right now they would not be legal in Williston.

The Williston City Commission has a moratorium on any new mobile businesses until city leaders can establish planning and zoning guidelines for them.

The city implemented a six-month moratorium last fall and recently extended it through September while the issue is studied by a committee, said Nick Vasuthawawat, code compliance officer for Williston.

That moratorium would apply to a new Sanford initiative announced last week that aims to bring health care services to oil industry workers in western North Dakota and eastern Montana. The effort, called O.P.C. mobileMed, will include two clinics on wheels that will cater to oil companies and their subsidiaries.

“Under the current moratorium, they wouldn’t be (permitted) because they weren’t officially recognized as a pre-existing mobile operation,” Vasuthawawat said.

But the City Commission could lift that moratorium any time, said Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk, who is on the committee studying the issue.

“Those aren’t the people we’re after,” Cymbaluk said of Sanford. “It’s the guy selling blankets taking up the corner. Those are the ones that need some serious parameters put around them.”

Williston has seen an increase in mobile businesses wanting to operate in the city, such as mobile coffee vendors or mobile tool shops, Cymbaluk said. City leaders are discussing guidelines to govern mobile businesses and potential fees to support city services and even the playing field with “brick and mortar” business owners, he said.

Cymbaluk said he hopes the committee can meet and develop the guidelines soon so the moratorium could be lifted earlier than September.

Sanford’s new initiative will launch in Watford City, likely in June, with future locations determined based on oil companies that request the services, said Stephanie Murdock, Sanford’s enterprise vice president of corporate occupational medicine services.

A request has not been made for a mobile unit to go to Williston, Murdock said. If that happens, Sanford will work with city leaders, she said.

The project, which also involves a modular clinic in Watford City, is costing Sanford an initial investment of $2.7 million along with $4.8 million in annual operating expenses.

The mobile clinics will provide work- and non-work-related health care services, such as employment physicals and care for sore throats, coughs and other illnesses. Sanford also will do lab work and X-rays, and provide access to telemedicine, emergency transportation or referrals for advanced injuries.

Williston has a mobile veterinary clinic that is exempted from the moratorium because it operated before leaders began discussing a new ordinance. A mobile chiropractic clinic also was exempted, but the owner left town last fall, citing frustrations with the city. The city previously established a ban on food trucks.

Public Service Commission to review proposed gas plant expansion

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Public Service Commission will hold a public hearing April 10 regarding a proposed expansion of a natural gas plant near New Town.

Whiting Oil and Gas Corp. proposes expanding its Robinson Lake Gas Plant, about eight miles northeast of New Town, to meet the growing demand for natural gas processing in the region. The plant, constructed in 2007, has been modified and redesigned to process gas produced by Whiting and other companies in the region.

Whiting proposes to expand the plant’s capacity above 100 million cubic feet per day, which is a threshold that requires Public Service Commission siting. The proposed expansion would occur within the fenced boundaries of the current facility.

The hearing is at 10 a.m. April 10 at the Mountrail County South Complex, 8103 61st St. N.W., Stanley.

Meeting set to gather input on reducing gas flaring

BISMARCK – A special hearing is set for April 22 to provide input on reducing natural gas flaring to the Oil and Gas Division of the state Department of Mineral Resources.

The input gathered at the one-day hearing, as well as through written comments that can be submitted, will be considered as the North Dakota Industrial Commission moves forward with a newly adopted plan to reduce flaring.

The Industrial Commission’s goals are to reduce the volume of natural gas that is flared, reduce the number of wells that are flaring and reduce the duration of flaring from wells.

Commission members will consider revising rules that relate to curtailing oil production from the Bakken and Three Forks if flaring guidelines aren’t met. Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said last month the rules are outdated and not being enforced as companies are being granted exemptions.

The hearing will be at 9 a.m. April 22 at the Department of Mineral Resources, 1000 E. Calgary Ave., Bismarck. Written comments may be submitted to brkadrmas@nd.gov through 5 p.m. April 21.

The department is seeking constructive comments about curbing flaring, said Alison Ritter, department spokeswoman.

“We want to make sure there is some testimony that would provide technical solutions,” Ritter said.

The department is seeking input on questions such as:

– What length of time should wells be allowed to produce at their maximum rate while flaring natural gas? Currently, most field rules allow a well to produce at its maximum rate for 60 days while flaring, and then restrict production according to a schedule after each additional 60 days.

“Typically, operators do seek an extension from that, and most of the time they are granted that extension because of infrastructure constraints,” Ritter said.

– What restrictions are appropriate for wells that are flaring but are connected to gas-gathering lines or when some of the gas is being used for a beneficial use?

– Should restrictions be adjusted for well economics? For example, if one operator is capturing 95 percent of its gas but it’s not economical to connect one well to gas-gathering lines, should special consideration be given to that operator or that region, Ritter said. If flaring restrictions were fully enforced, curtailing oil production would be damaging to the state revenue as well as private mineral owners, Ritter said.

The commission also will consider changing how it grants administrative approval of exemptions from the flaring rules and rules for wells that are not connected to gas-gathering lines or a beneficial use.

North Dakota flared 36 percent of its natural gas in January, but regulators say that figure was higher than usual because Hess Corp.’s Tioga gas plant had been offline since Thanksgiving. In October, before the plant went offline, 28 percent of gas was flared.

The steps adopted by the Industrial Commission should help the state reduce the percentage of natural gas being flared to 5 percent by 2020, Helms said last month.

More information about the commission’s new flaring policy can be found at www.dmr.nd.gov/oilgas/presentations/NDIC030314_100.pdf.

Faces of the Boom: Dominican native proud to have played a part of boom’s beginnings

Willy Amparo, pictured Friday, March 21, 2014, in Williston, N.D., moved to North Dakota seven years ago from Florida and works in the oil industry. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Willy Amparo became part of North Dakota’s oil boom by accident.

While thousands of people now move to the state each year looking for work, the Florida man was ahead of the curve.

Amparo wound up in Williston seven years ago after an opportunity he was pursuing in Canada didn’t work out. The 47-year-old held a variety of jobs in the beginning, from restaurant work to doing maintenance at a nursing home, before getting a start in the oil industry.

Now Amparo, who repairs equipment for hydraulic fracturing, is proud to have been part of the oil boom since the early days.

“We have made history over here. We are part of that,” Amparo said. “Now everyone knows Williston around the United States. No one knew seven years ago.”

Many of the workers Amparo met during his first years in Williston are no longer around, he says.

Amparo has stayed because his son-in-law also moved to Williston and began working in the oil industry, which led to several members of their family relocating to North Dakota.

“For families that come over here now, it’s not that tough,” Amparo said. “But back then, it was real tough.”

The shortage of affordable housing has been the main challenge for his family, said Amparo, who lived in a truck for the first five months.

Amparo got divorced after moving to North Dakota, which he says was largely because his wife didn’t want to move to the state.

“A lot of guys went through the same thing,” he said. “The wives didn’t want to put up with this town back then.”

Amparo said he has watched living and working conditions improve for workers and their families. One significant change he appreciates is the increase in diversity. Amparo once thought he was the only native of the Dominican Republic in Williston, but now the city has residents from all over the world.

“We have seen how the town has changed and how we have changed,” Amparo said. “We have grown up with the town, mentally, emotionally.”

Crowd wowed as new Williston rec center opens

Kids try out the “flow rider” wave simulator at the Williston Area Recreation Center during the center’s grand opening on Friday, March 28, 2014. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – More than 2,500 people checked out the new Williston Area Recreation Center on Friday during the first two hours it was open, from families with small children to oilfield workers still in their coveralls.

The crowd that gathered on indoor tennis courts for an opening ceremony got louder and louder as speeches continued, reflecting the community’s eagerness for more recreation opportunities.

“We’ve been needing this for so long,” said Williston resident Crystal Boerschig, a mother of three.

Some in attendance scrambled to try out the golf simulator or get in line for the “flow rider” wave simulator, while others took time to tour each feature of the 236,000-square-foot center.

“Everything is just insane, big,” said Trevor Jeannotte, 24, who tried out a pitching simulator that major league teams have. “We needed something around here to keep everyone entertained.”

Many said they were overwhelmed as they took in the new facility, which is not only big, but features small details that add to the wow factor.

The waterpark has a northwest North Dakota theme, with Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers represented, along with a decorative oil derrick and natural gas flares.

Tiles picturing local fish, such as paddlefish and perch, can be found at the bottom of the pools – two of each to reflect the facility’s nickname, the ARC. Real fossils from northwest North Dakota that are 35 million to 95 million years old will be encased throughout the water park.

The center has a teen lounge with a bubble hockey game that is customized to represent players from the University of North Dakota versus Williston State College. A spinning room features an outdoor mural and high-definition projection screens.

The child care center, where parents can drop their kids off while they work out, has an animal mural that allows kids to color on the wall. It also has two-way mirrors so parents can check on their kids.

Even the locker rooms are noteworthy, with special dryers so swimmers don’t have to bring home a wet suit.

The facility, which is on the campus of Williston State College, has free admission through Monday night and is expected to be packed.

“I haven’t seen this many happy people in this community in five years,” said Larry Grondahl, former Williston Park Board president.

The $76 million facility is the largest park district-owned indoor recreation center in the country.

“What a fantastic place you have,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who spoke during the grand opening. “I’m not sure across the state if people really realize what you’ve done here.”

Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky will swim the ceremonial first lap in the Olympic-sized pool Saturday. The E.J. Hagan, MD Natatorium is named after Ledecky’s grandfather, the late Edward Hagan, whose legacy in Williston includes pushing for the construction of the city’s first indoor pool in 1967.

Ledecky, who won the 800-meter freestyle during the 2012 Summer Olympics, will give autographs at 10:15 a.m. and participate in a dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Williston residents voted in November 2011 to approve a 1 percent sales tax, with half being used to pay for a bond for the new center and half to support other park district operations. About $10.4 million has been paid toward the bond through December.

In addition to sales tax revenue, the facility will be supported through membership fees and student fees collected from Williston State College.

For more information, go to www.willistonparks.com or call (701) 577-9272.

N.D. to host national energy meeting

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy has chosen North Dakota as a site for a nationwide meeting to examine critical energy issues, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp announced Friday.

Heitkamp, D-N.D., called on Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to hold a regional meeting in North Dakota after President Obama established a Quadrennial Energy Review. The goal of the review is to help the federal government better meet its responsibility of providing affordable, clean and secure energy services to Americans.

Heitkamp said she was notified that North Dakota will be the site of a meeting that is part of the review, focusing on infrastructure constraints. A date for the meeting has not been set.

“Our state presents a unique opportunity to gain insight and gather ideas from state and local government officials, tribal leaders, energy and utility companies, research universities, and large and small businesses that are operating in our state,” Heitkamp said.

The first meeting will be held April 11 in Washington, D.C. New England, Oregon, Louisiana and Illinois also will host meetings, according to Heitkamp’s office.

UPDATED: North Dakota cities among fastest-growing in nation

WILLISTON, N.D. – Several North Dakota cities are among the fastest-growing communities in the nation, with Williston leading the way as the fastest-growing micropolitan area, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday.

Census population estimates show that the Williston area grew 10.7 percent between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013, faster than any other small city in the nation.

The other hub cities in the Oil Patch also ranked high on the list of fastest-growing micropolitan areas, which are communities with a population between 10,000 and 50,000. Dickinson ranked No. 2 with 5 percent growth and Minot ranked No. 5 with 3.7 percent.

The figures do not include oil boom workers who work in North Dakota but maintain residences in other states.

“We have a lot more people living here, but not ones that would say that this is their home,” Williston Mayor Ward Koeser said.

North Dakota’s oil-producing regions were not the only areas to see growth.

Fargo-Moorhead ranked No. 4 and Bismarck ranked No. 5 on the list of fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. Each community had a 3.1 percent population increase between 2012 and 2013.

“Things are good in Fargo. We’re benefiting from what’s happening in Williston and Watford City and so forth,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said. “It’s definitely had some snowball effects from what’s going on out there.”

Kevin Iverson, manager of the Census Office at the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said 38 of the state’s 53 counties gained population.

“This is a major turnaround from just a few years ago when only a handful of counties experienced growth and the majority experienced yearly declines in population,” Iverson said.

The growth in eastern North Dakota illustrates that sectors of the state’s economy other than oil also are strong, he said.

“North Dakota is just firing on all cylinders,” Iverson said.

Nationwide, many of the growing communities are in states experiencing energy booms, which are attracting job-seekers from around the country, Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said in a statement.

Watford City, county seat for McKenzie County, did not make the Census rankings because the county’s population is less than 10,000. However, that county where oil drilling activity is most concentrated grew even faster than Williams County between 2012 and 2013, with a growth rate of 16.5 percent.

Since the 2010 Census, McKenzie County is the fastest-growing county in the nation, growing from 6,360 in 2010 to 9,314 in 2013, a 46.5 percent increase.

The Williston area now has a greater population than the Dickinson area, with 29,595 in Williams County compared to 28,212 in Stark County.

Koeser said he thinks it’s impressive that Williston, which gained 2,851 residents from 2012 to 2013, has been the fastest-growing micropolitan area for three years in a row. He expects the community to grow by another 2,500 residents this year as more families move to the area.

The population figures support the city’s position that it needs more state resources to support the rapid growth, Koeser said.

“To provide for 2,500 more people you need to have infrastructure in place, and we need help with that,” he said.

Census figures show that of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the nation since 2010, seven are in the Bakken, including one county from Montana.

This is the third year in a row Dickinson has ranked in the top five fastest-growing micropolitan areas.

“It’s hard to fathom the level of impacts that has on a community of our size,” Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel said.

In December, the Census Bureau said North Dakota’s population reached 723,393 residents, an all-time high. In-migration has been the most significant factor in the state’s growth since the 2010 Census, with an estimated net in-migration to North Dakota of 18,051 in 2013.

Dean Bangsund, research scientist at North Dakota State University who has studied western North Dakota’s population growth, said the figures would be even higher if more of the state’s job openings were filled.

“There’s room for continued expansion in this economy. It’s going to come down to can we attract workers from outside the state to continue to move here,” Bangsund said. “We’ve got some complicated challenges to address this growth in North Dakota.”

The 10 Fastest Growing Micro Areas from July 1, 2012, to July 1, 2013

Micro area Percentage change

1. Williston, N.D. 10.7

2. Dickinson, N.D. 5.0

3. Heber, Utah 4.4

4. Andrews, Texas 4.1

5. Minot, N.D. 3.7

6. Vernal, Utah 2.9

7. Weatherford, Okla. 2.9

8. Hobbs, N.M. 2.9

9. Elko, Nev. 2.8

10. Woodward, Okla. 2.8

The 10 Fastest Growing Metro Areas from July 1, 2012, to July 1, 2013

Metro area Percentage change

1. The Villages, Fla. 5.2

2. Odessa, Texas 3.3

3. Midland, Texas 3.3

4. Fargo-Moorhead 3.1

5. Bismarck, N.D. 3.1

6. Casper, Wyo. 2.9

7. Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, S.C.-N.C. 2.7

8. Austin-Round Rock, Texas 2.6

9. Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Ala. 2.6

10. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. 2.5