The historic flooding of the Souris River Valley disrupted traffic and lives both near and far, but the statistical extent to which operations were affected financially in the oil industry is just beginning to be revealed.
Since most of the direct exploration and production activities begin west of Berthold, the Souris floodwaters did not directly inundate any oil rigs. However, flooding problems in 2011 were not confined to the malfunctions of the Souris, and petroleum companies overall experienced ups and downs in the Williston Basin.
Numerous companies recently held their second-quarter earnings calls, during which they reflected on various factors that helped or hurt the companies' quests to reach their financial projections. Transcripts from the calls were viewed at Seeking Alpha, a financial investment blog.
Brigham Exploration CEO Bud Brigham acknowledged weather factors had been problematic for the company, but with some forward thinking it was still able to hit projection goals.
"North Dakota experienced a record winter followed by tragic flooding during the spring melt and late May rainstorms," Brigham said. He credited Brigham's "smart pad" multiple drilling platform program, fracture-stimulation techniques and improvements in infrastructure as factors.
"We were able to continue much of our operations in the field and as a result, our production was within our previous guidance range, albeit at the lower end," Brigham said.
Continental Resources chairman and CEO Harold Hamm delivered a similar message during his earnings call.
"Continental reported outstanding performance under challenging circumstances for the second quarter of 2011," Hamm said. "We generated solid production growth, and we're on track to achieve our goals for the year.
"This all is made possible by the talent and commitment by the Continental team to overcome adverse weather challenges up there in that area even under very tough conditions this winter."
Hamm said the company's expansion strategy is actually preparing to be even more aggressive.
"Obviously, it helps us a little with 2011 production growth but the primary impact will be on production growth in early 2012 and beyond," he said. "Our strong growth this year has us firmly on track to achieve the goals in a five-year plan list established last October. The goal was to triple our production, improve reserves from year-end 2009 to year-end 2014.
"So to sum up, we'll continue to keep Continental on a high growth profile, and we're even accelerating that just a bit through the next six months."
Thomas Nusz, president and CEO of Oasis Petroleum, said his company's production dropped 2 percent in the second quarter.
"That being said, we're up significantly or 77 percent from the second quarter of 2010 and up 5 percent from our fourth quarter 2010 production levels.
"This is directly related to the unusual weather conditions and flooding we've experienced this year."
Nusz said the company's current goal is to end 2011 with nine drilling rigs in operation, then raise that number to 12 sometime in 2012.
James Volker, chairman and CEO of Whiting Petroleum, said his company's production curve was "relatively flat on production in the first half of the year due to weather," but he expects a 14 percent boost for the second half, on top of what was actually record-level output for the company.
"And I'm very, very pleased, I will say with the reaction of all of our (North Dakota) employees who had to deal with the flood and everything else, some of them affecting their homes and family lives, and have really put the pedal to the metal, and brought us to a new record for our net daily production in operated in the Williston Basin," Volker said.
Terry Hildestad, president and CEO of Montana Dakota Utilities, said despite all the obstacles brought forth by the weather, he was pleased with MDU's second quarter performance.
"I thank all of our employees for their outstanding efforts to fight historic flooding conditions and restoring normal operations as quickly as possible," Hildestad said. "Each of our business units has been affected by the extraordinarily wet conditions or the high river levels. Drilling and production activity was stalled at our (oil exploration and production) operations, as well as some delay on our pipeline projects."
However, as pleased as he was with stock performance, he was even more pleased with the performance of MDU employees.
"Our utility shut off service for 5,000 natural gas customers in Minot and had to build up shoreline close to one of our generating stations," Hildestad said.
"Our construction employees worked around the clock hauling sand, clay and rip-rap materials. Many of our employees volunteered their time to sandbag to save company structures and assets, while others helped to sandbag their fellow employees' homes or simply to lend a hand to strangers generously.
"The caring of our employees demonstrates the true spirit of this corporation. I'm proud of their efforts."