Gas plant opening marks ‘new era’ for N.D. industry

TIOGA, N.D. – The expansion of the Hess Corp. Tioga Gas Plant will significantly reduce natural gas flaring and could be North Dakota’s gateway to the petrochemical industry.

State and company officials gathered here Monday to celebrate the completion of the plant’s expansion, which more than doubles the plant’s processing capacity.

The expanded gas plant now produces ethane, a new product for North Dakota. The ethane is transported by pipeline to a plastics plant in Alberta, Canada.

The production of ethane is significant for North Dakota, with several companies looking at petrochemical manufacturing opportunities in the state, said Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms.

“It really starts a whole new era for North Dakota,” said Helms, one of several state officials who attended the event. “With the growth in gas production in North Dakota, petrochemical manufacturing out of ethane is right on the doorstep.”

North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Alan Anderson said the possibilities are exciting for the state.

“The question becomes, Why not have a plastic plant in North Dakota instead of shipping it all the way to Canada?,” Anderson said.

The Tioga Gas Plant also produces propane, methane, butane and natural gasoline.

When operating at full capacity, the plant will produce enough energy to meet 2½ times the residential fuel needs of North Dakota, said Hess President Greg Hill.

“That really puts it in perspective,” Hill said.

Hess, one of North Dakota’s largest oil and gas producers, recently flared about 25 percent of its natural gas. With the expanded plant, Hess now flares 15 percent to 20 percent of its natural gas, with a goal of reducing that to 10 percent or below by 2017.

Hess invested $1.5 billion between 2012 and 2014 on the plant expansion and a gas-gathering system. Prior to the expansion, the 60-year-old plant processed about 100 million standard cubic feet of gas per day.

It now processes 120 million standard cubic feet per day and has the capacity to process 250 million, with a potential to increase to 300 million.

The plant also will process natural gas produced by other companies.

“It’s not only going to be great for this company, but it’s going to be great for the state,” Hess Corp. CEO John Hess said.

The expansion is expected to reduce the state’s overall flaring percentage from 33 percent in March to the low 20s in April or May, Helms said.

Hess, which drilled North Dakota’s first oil well in 1951, operates 17 drilling rigs in North Dakota and expects to produce an average of 80,000 to 90,000 barrels of oil per day this year.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., thanked Hess for making the investment in North Dakota.

“This is a huge step forward for us in reducing flaring. This big increase in capacity is going to have an immediate benefit,” Dalrymple said. “But it’s all part of a bigger plan to require companies to have a plan for the use of the gas as they continue to drill and as they continue to develop.”

The expansion was completed over 2½ years with a peak of 1,400 people working at the site at one time. Now that it’s operational, the plant employs 100 full-time workers and 40 contractors.

Faces of the Boom: Rising rent forces woman to move back in with family

Michelle Thomas, pictured Thursday, May 15, 2014, had to move away from Williston, N.D., after her rent increased and now commutes from Montana to work. Amy Dalrymple/Foum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – At 31, Michelle Thomas is back living at home, but it’s not by choice.

The Williston woman was forced to move in with her grandmother in Bainville, Mont., after her apartment building was sold and the new owner increased the rent.

Thomas said she learned on Jan. 20 that her rent of $550 a month for a one-bedroom in Williston’s Park Village Apartments would increase to $900 in March.

In addition, the new building owner required tenants to pay a higher security deposit, she said. For Thomas, she would have been required to pay an additional $700 on top of the $200 deposit she paid when she moved in 10 years ago.

The building is more than 30 years old, according to information from the Williams County Assessor’s Office.

Thomas works two part-time jobs in Williston as an administrative assistant and as a custodian for her church. But the two jobs together don’t pay enough for her to afford Williston’s high rent prices on her own.

“A lot of single people are having difficulty,” Thomas said.

Thomas has been living on her own since she was 18. Now she is back living in the home where she grew up and renting a storage unit for some of her belongings.

“It’s hard, especially when you’re used to your own space,” Thomas said.

Thomas now commutes 28 miles one-way to Williston, which can be challenging with busy oilfield traffic and road construction. She allows an hour to get to work on time and often takes Williston’s temporary truck reliever route to avoid the congestion.

She estimates she drives at least an extra 350 miles each week now. Thomas recently had to replace her windshield after a rock came through the glass. During a late spring snowstorm, her Ford Focus went into the ditch during her commute.

“It ended up being a costly day,” Thomas said.

Thomas has started to look at jobs in other communities. But her family lives in the area and she doesn’t want to move.

“I’ve seen a lot of my friends leave because of this,” Thomas said.

When minutes matter: WPX works to improve response to rig accidents

An injured worker taking part in a simulated oil rig emergency is loaded onto Trinity Health’s NorthStar Criticair helicopter and flown from the site during a safety exercise Wednesday, May 14, 2014, near Mandaree, N.D. (Kevin Cederstrom/Forum News Service)

MANDAREE, N.D. – Two years ago, Teresa Van Deusen felt helpless when an oilfield worker lost his arm in a drilling rig accident and had to wait two hours for an ambulance to arrive.

Once the ambulance got to the remote North Dakota oilfield location, the paramedics decided to call for a helicopter, adding another 20 minutes.

“I don’t find that acceptable,” said Van Deusen, safety specialist for WPX Energy.

On Wednesday, the company demonstrated its new emergency response plan, which not only gets injured workers to a trauma center in about an hour, but also will improve emergency response to the local community.

WPX, which operates five drilling rigs on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, now stations a paramedic and a quick-responder at a central location to react to incidents at the company’s sites.

The response team also can provide assistance if there’s a vehicle crash or other emergency in the rural Mandaree area, where it can take 1½ hours to get an ambulance.

“This needs to benefit the whole community,” Van Deusen said.

The emergency response plan, which was developed by consultant Troy Easton, president of Health and Safety Solutions, involves training oilfield workers to know what to do before paramedics arrive, as well as how to assist the emergency response team.

The drilling crew also is trained to help guide a helicopter to a safe landing.

The goal is to get the injured worker from a rural Mandaree oilfield site to a trauma center in about an hour. It typically takes 5½ to six hours to get from the site to a trauma center due to the distance, the congested oilfield roads and overworked local ambulance crews, Easton said.

“If he’s got to lay on the ground for two hours, what’s his chance of survival?” Easton said.

In Wednesday’s demonstration, the crew simulated that an oil worker suffered a broken femur on the rig floor. The quick responder and paramedic arrived within minutes and the drilling crew was ready to work with them to lower the victim.

The simulation included a second critical injury when a crew member suffered a heart attack during the response.

The drilling crew worked with the first responders on the ground and helped guide a helicopter from Minot and another from Bismarck to land safely.

The program includes training helicopter crews on the basic components of an oilfield location so they can work safely.

“A lot of the crews have never seen a rig site before,” said Tamera Harvey, a flight nurse with Trinity Health’s NorthStar Criticair in Minot.

A flight crew from Sanford in Bismarck said the coordination on the ground during the simulation got the patient to the hospital at least 15 to 25 minutes faster.

In the simulation, both patients would have arrived at trauma centers in about an hour and likely in less time than it would have taken for a ground ambulance to arrive, Easton said.

The emergency response plan, which includes regular training and emergency drills, is seeing results.

“We’ve saved three guys’ butts big time flying them,” Easton said.

Medical personnel and emergency managers participated in the training session.

“It’s great to see the industry take on some of the responsibility to keep the job site safer,” said Randy Schwan, vice president of Trinity Health in Minot.

Easton’s next step is to expand the pilot project from five rigs to 25 rigs in North Dakota. Ultimately, it could become a national model, he said.

“Right now, this isn’t happening anywhere else in the nation,” Easton said.

Kurt Papenfus, a doctor from Colorado who serves on a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health committee, observed the simulation and said the program would work in a lot of different areas. He said getting industry to adopt the program will take showing companies that they’re better off in the long run being prepared for an emergency, rather than relying on dialing 911.

“Unfortunately, it usually takes some horrendous thing to slap you into reality,” Papenfus said, adding that the oil and gas industry has a fatality rate seven times higher thanother industries. “There’s a lot of room to do a better job.”

Anglers flock to northwest N.D. to snag a paddlefish

Jeff Boudreaux of Grand Forks, N.D., shows off a paddlefish he caught Friday, May 9, 2014, at Sundheim Park in McKenzie County, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

CARTWRIGHT, N.D. – Northwest North Dakota has more people and traffic than it did a decade ago when Dennis and Brenda Ahlfs began traveling from Minnesota for paddlefish season.

But the oil boom hasn’t deterred them from visiting the region each year to try to snag the ancient fish.

“The fishing hasn’t changed,” said Dennis Ahlfs of Detroit Lakes.

The annual paddlefish season continues in the Williston area until May 31 or until 1,000 fish are harvested.

Last year, the state sold more than 4,000 paddlefish tags, up from a typical season of 3,000 to 3,500 tags, said Fred Ryckman, supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Northwest Fisheries District.

“It has become more and more concentrated in terms of the number of snaggers per day,” Ryckman said. “There’s a lot of intense competition for the really good spots.”

About 30 percent of the tags sold last season were for non-North Dakota residents, a figure that has been increasing each year as new residents move to northwest North Dakota, Ryckman said.

People continue to travel from out of the area for paddlefishing, with a typical fisherman traveling 200 miles one way, Ryckman said.

Dennis and Brenda Ahlfs spent two weekends this spring camping at Sundheim Park in McKenzie County until they each snagged a paddlefish.

“It’s addicting,” Brenda Ahlfs said.

Shane Johnson of Grand Forks has missed only two paddlefish seasons since 1993. Johnson said he now encounters more people along the Yellowstone River, but that didn’t stop his group of six guys from enjoying a weekend of camping and fishing.

“It’s just awesome,” Johnson said. “Where else are you going to catch a 100-pound fish in freshwater?”

LaVern Gross of Bismarck said the camaraderie of participating in paddlefish season is what has brought him back to northwest North Dakota every year since 1995.

A few years ago, Gross said there were more people taking up camping spots in the oil region than there were people fishing. But this year he and his sons had no difficulty finding a place to camp for the weekend.

Marty Shaide, whose family runs a food stand during paddlefish season, said the influx of new residents has made some spots more crowded, but locals are still able to enjoy the season.

“If you’re from around here, you can always find a quiet space by the river,” Shaide said.

This paddlefish season has been successful for snaggers, with a higher number of female fish harvested that weigh 70 pounds or more, Ryckman said.

North Star Caviar, a nonprofit company that cleans the fish free of charge in exchange for the paddlefish eggs, reported cleaning a fish this season that weighed 123 pounds.

How late this season goes will depend on how many snaggers show up, Ryckman said. He estimates that 650 to 700 paddlefish have been harvested this season in North Dakota.

Williston will consult attorney general on options for high rent prices

WILLISTON, N.D. – Citizens here pleaded with the Williston City Commission on Tuesday to address steep increases in rental prices, with some comparing the displacement of residents to a natural disaster.

City commissioners plan to ask the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office whether there’s anything the city can do to provide relief. Residents of two trailer parks and several apartment buildings in Williston recently learned of rent increases that in some cases more than doubled the cost.

The trailer parks are tied to the same owner, Renu Properties of Scottsdale, Ariz., and the apartment buildings were purchased by New York companies, said Barbara Vondell, a Williston resident who is working on affordable housing issues.

“It sounds kind of funny that they’re buying up all the properties and raising all the lot rent,” Vondell said.

Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk made the motion to ask the city’s attorney to seek an attorney general’s opinion about what the city can do legally to help residents.

“It’s causing undue hardship to the community,” Cymbaluk said.

Several residents said they may be forced to leave the area due to the rent, which will go from $300 to $850 for some trailer park residents starting June 1.

“It’s very devastating to us all that we’re kind of being forced out,” said Kristy McKechnie, crying as she spoke to commissioners.

Williston resident Lee Steen said he’s not personally affected by the high rent prices, but he’s tired of watching widows get “knocked out” by the increases.

“This is kind of a natural disaster,” Steen told commissioners. “I’m not saying we need FEMA trailers in here right away, but when you go to Bismarck, let them know it’s a natural disaster.”

Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl agreed that residents being forced to leave Williston due to high rents could be compared to being displaced by a flood.

“This is displacing people,” Bekkedahl said. “It’s a different way of displacement.”

In addition to asking the attorney general for assistance, commissioners said they plan to raise awareness of the issue at the state level and talk to federal representatives about adjusting income levels for federal programs.

Bekkedahl added that while it’s not enough, the city of Williston has committed $1.2 million in funding to projects for elderly housing or reduced rental housing and sold property for low-income housing.

“All of those have waiting lists of more than 50 people,” Vondell said.

UPDATED: ND oil production up, but not 1 M barrels yet

WILLISTON, N.D. – North Dakota oil production hit another all-time high in March at 977,051 barrels per day after three months of tough winter weather slowed the state’s oil activity.

“We are back to setting records, just barely,” Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said Tuesday.

The preliminary oil production figure for March is a 2.6 percent increase over February’s production.

Winter weather continued to affect oil production in March, with a few days where temperatures were well below zero, several days with winds too high for some crews to operate and a snowstorm on the final day of the month, he said.

Helms predicts North Dakota oil production will “squeak by” the 1 million barrel per day milestone when April production figures are released next month.

Natural gas flaring fell from 36 percent to 33 percent in March, largely because the expanded Hess Corp. gas plant in Tioga came online at the end of the month, Helms said. About 50 wells continued to be shut down in March to minimize flaring as the gas plant transitioned to an expanded plant.

Helms said he expects the rate of flaring will drop to 25 percent or below next month when figures reflect the gas being processed by the expanded plant.

To further reduce flaring, companies will be required starting June 1 to submit gas capture plans with their drilling permit applications. Helms said companies recently received letters with guidelines on what those gas capture plans should look like.

“I think it’s fair to say they’re extremely nervous about what this is going to mean,” he said.

In some cases, the new requirements could delay or restrict permitting or restrict production, Helms said. The North Dakota Industrial Commission took public comment in April and is still working to develop the final piece of its plan to reduce flaring, Helms said.

“There are companies that are going to be in really good shape in terms of the 76 percent capture goal by year end and there are other companies that aren’t,” Helms said.

A new policy on drilling near North Dakota’s “extraordinary places” took effect May 1, but the department has not yet seen a permit application within those areas, Helms said.

“I’m guessing that they are working to plan around it,” he said.

The new policy would lengthen the permitting process to allow for a comment period.

Rail transportation of crude oil fell slightly from 67 percent to 66 percent, driven by market conditions that prompted more barrels to be shipped by pipeline, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

About 700,000 to 715,000 barrels per day of crude oil were transported out of the Williston Basin in March, Kringstad said.

Williston Basin oil conference again drawing global interest

By Amy Dalrymple and Mike Nowatzki
Forum News Service

BISMARCK – More than 3,400 people from 49 states and eight foreign countries are registered for next week’s Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, with more expected to register when the conference begins May 20.

About 4,000 people attended the conference when it was last in North Dakota two years ago, making it the largest event Bismarck hosts.

“We’re on track for where we were two years ago,” said Tessa Sandstrom, spokeswoman for the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

This year’s conference, May 20-22, features a speech by conservative radio and TV personality Sean Hannity and presentation by Bakken CEOs Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Jim Volker of Whiting Petroleum and Tommy Nusz of Oasis Petroleum. An additional 154 people are signed up so far just to see Hannity.

Attendees are coming from every state but Hawaii, seven Canadian provinces, Cameroon, China, France, Nigeria, Norway, Singapore and the Virgin Islands.

Hotels in Bismarck-Mandan and some outlying communities are full, with additional rooms being set aside as far as Jamestown and Dickinson, said Sheri Grossman, chief operating officer for the Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We’re really excited to have it here,” Grossman said. “We’ve been working hard to get everything ready for them.”

The expansion of the Bismarck Civic Center’s Exhibit Hall will be “substantially completed” to accommodate the petroleum conference, Civic Center General Manager Charlie Jeske said. Staff will start setting up booths Thursday and vendors will begin moving in on Sunday, he said.

“There’s still an awful lot of work that needs to be done, but we’re just going to basically have the shell done, and that’s what we promised,” Jeske said.

The expanded area will house about half of the 588 vendors expected to set up in Exhibit Hall, Jeske said. Thirty to 40 exhibitors, some with heavy equipment too big to fit inside the Civic Center, will have displays outside, he said.

Parking on site is limited, and the CVB will run shuttle buses to and from hotels and the Bismarck Airport, Jeske said.

The Bismarck City Commission voted in March 2013 to spend $27 million to double the size of Exhibit Hall to 100,000 square feet, after voters the previous November rejected a ballot measure that would have raised the city’s hospitality taxes to generate nearly $70 million for a $90 million Civic Center expansion and renovation.

City leaders justified the decision by citing a consultant’s studies that found the city was leaving convention business on the table and by raising concerns about possibly losing the lucrative Williston Basin Petroleum Conference. The event drew about 4,000 people to Bismarck in May 2012 and generated $1.9 million worth of business, according to the Bismarck-Mandan Convention & Visitors Bureau.

This year, attendees are anticipated to spend about $2.5 million while in Bismarck-Mandan, Grossman said.

The approved expansion project is being funded with revenue from the city’s existing 1 percent lodging and restaurant tax.

The Civic Center will host the Antique Roadshow on May 31, after which Exhibit Hall will be turned back over to general contractor Scull Construction to finish the facility, Jeske said. The remaining work includes finishing the interior walls, masonry, windows, a walkway around the building and LED lighting instead of the construction lighting that will be in place during the petroleum conference, he said.

The project should wrap up by October or November, he said.

For more information about the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference and the full agenda, visit Registration is $600 through Monday and $700 during the event.

Tickets to see Hannity speak at 9:30 a.m. May 22 are available for $25. Free Bakken education sessions will be offered on May 20 from 1:30-3 p.m. and 3:30-5 p.m. at the Ramkota Hotel Ballroom in Bismarck.

UPDATED: Well control incident reported near Tioga

TIOGA, N.D. – Workers on Monday were still trying to secure a well that had been out of control since Friday.

Crews reported losing control of the well about 8 p.m. Friday and an unknown amount of oil, gas and water has been released, said Kris Roberts environmental response team leader with the North Dakota Department of Health.

The release has been contained to the site, Roberts said.

Williams County emergency manager Mike Hallesy said the well was still considered to be out of control Monday afternoon and a specialized well control team was on site to assist. No injuries were reported, Hallesy said.

The Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas Division is monitoring the well and said Monday “there are no environmental threats to health and human safety at this time.”

The well, owned by Emerald Oil, is called the Ron Burgundy 3-23-14H well and is eight miles northwest of Tioga, the Department of Mineral Resources said.

Emerald Oil CEO McAndrew Rudisill said hydraulic fracturing crews were working on the well at the time of the incident. Crews have stabilized the well and contained the release, Rudisill said.

The fluids that released were primarily water that was used for fracking and some oil, Rudisill said. A volume estimate was not available Monday.

Cleanup, including some remediation to topsoil, will be required before crews can continue fracking the well, Rudisill said. The company will investigate what caused the incident, he said.

“Our safety procedures worked really well,” Rudisill said. “We responded at all levels very well and I commend the work that our team did to move as quickly as they did.”

The closest residence or occupied building to the well is 1,156 feet, according to information submitted to the health department.

The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services also was notified in addition to the health department and the emergency manager.

‘Insane rent hikes’ spur protest

Williston, N.D., residents affected by high rental prices hold a protest on Friday, May 9, 2014, in Williston. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Diana Avans moved back to Williston in 1991 to be near her mother, but now she worries she can’t afford to stay.

The retiree received a letter last week that the monthly lot rent in her trailer court will increase from $300 to $850 in June.

“This is just the beginning,” Avans. “You know they’re not going to stop at $850.”

Avans joined a handful of people who participated in a protest Friday afternoon across from Williston City Hall, holding signs that called for stopping “insane rent hikes” and protection for the elderly.

The protest, which continued Friday evening at Williston’s Harmon Park, was organized by Barbara Vondell, who arranged a similar event in November when a different Williston trailer court increased its lot rent.

This time, the issue hits even closer to home for Vondell because her mother is one of the Williston residents facing a steep increase to live in her trailer.

Vondell’s mother, who is 77 and has Alzheimer’s, receives $720 a month in Social Security benefits, but the lot rent will be $850. Vondell, her caregiver, said she’ll be able to cover the increase in rent.

“It’s going to be a struggle, but we’ll make it,” said Vondell, who is running for the state Senate to fight for affordable housing.

City commissioner Tate Cymbaluk, who stopped by to visit with some of the participants, said the investors who purchased the Williston trailer parks have taken advantage of the situation and are placing a severe hardship on residents.

“It’s a true picture of greed,” Cymbaluk said.

Although state statutes prohibit rent control, Cymbaluk said he wants city commissioners to have a discussion with legal counsel about whether there’s something that can be done to lessen the burden on residents.

Vondell and others at the event called for the city to make an effort to “grandfather in” rental prices for the elderly and people on fixed incomes.

“Something’s just got to be done,” said Steve Irgens, a lifelong Williston resident who now pays $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.

When Irgens moved into that apartment 12 years ago, rent was $190. He recently paid $650 a month until a New York company purchased the building raised rent to $1,000, Irgens said. Tenants were unable to sign leases that are longer than six months, and Irgens fears he won’t be able to stay in Williston if it goes much higher.

“Everybody in the building’s kind of scared,” said Irgens, who works for a silk screen T-shirt business.

Vondell said she thought more people would be at the protest, but some are afraid of repercussions if they speak out.

“People are scared,” Vondell said. “The elderly, especially, they don’t want to say anything because they’re afraid to get kicked out.”

Accurate 2020 census will require some legwork for ND

Census Bureau Director John Thomson, third from left, listens to Williston Mayor Ward Koeser, second from left, during a meeting with leaders of Oil Patch communities on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Williston, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Getting an accurate count of North Dakota’s population in 2020 will require working with local communities and educating people about who should be counted as residents, the Census Bureau director said Wednesday.

John Thompson heard from leaders of Oil Patch communities during a meeting in Williston about challenges to count the influx of oil workers and their families.

“If they are living and staying here most of the time, this is where they should be counted,” Thompson said during his third day visiting North Dakota, the nation’s fastest-growing state.

Between now and 2020, it will be important for the Census Bureau to work with North Dakota cities to develop a database of addresses, using GIS data and other information, Thompson said.

“We can’t get too far behind,” Thompson said.

Prior to 2020, the Census Bureau will need to have staff walk through the rapidly growing North Dakota communities to accurately assess where the housing units are, Thompson said.

“We’re going to have to go out right before the census and understand it firsthand,” he said.

Leaders of several western North Dakota cities told Thompson the 2010 census data undercounted their populations, and since then they’ve experienced rapid growth.

Watford City’s official population is 1,744 residents, but the municipal sewer accommodates 6,500 people, Mayor Brent Sanford said.

In Dickinson, the 2010 census showed a population of 17,787, but city officials now estimate that to be nearly 30,000, said Matt Kolling, Dickinson’s assistant city administrator and city attorney.

“The challenges are enormous,” Kolling said.

The national census count affects how much federal and state funding communities receive.

Communities can request that the Census Bureau issue a new certified count prior to 2020, but the local community has to pay for it, Thompson said.

Sanford said Watford City leaders have discussed the possibility of a special census because if its population was more than 5,000, that would have implications for federal transportation dollars.

Williston City Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl said people who work most of the time in North Dakota may be reluctant to be counted as North Dakota residents because they’re afraid of losing hunting rights or voting privileges in their home states.

Thompson said the Census Bureau does not share data with any other agencies. Williston leaders said it will be important to get that message out to people before 2020.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions,” Bekkedahl said.

Thompson also said the Census Bureau will develop local partnerships to best assess how to count people and what time to try to find them at home.

Stanley Mayor Mike Hynek said in an interview he was disappointed with the city’s 2010 count, but he said it would be difficult for anyone to do accurately unless they were familiar with the territory.

“I just think it was really hard to do and I think it would take a special effort on anyone’s part to really get an accurate count,” Hynek said in an interview. “To do it right would be a huge task.”

Williston Mayor Ward Koeser told Thompson he’ll likely need to bring workers into North Dakota to conduct the census, due to the lack of available workers, and may need to provide housing for them.

North Dakota is the first state Thompson has toured since becoming director in August. He was invited by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. Thompson was in Fargo and Bismarck earlier this week before driving through Dickinson and Watford City on his way to Williston.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Thompson said.