WILLISTON, N.D. — Whiting wasn’t the only oil company in the Bakken to lay off employees in early August. Oasis Petroleum also laid off a sizable portion of its Williston workforce about a week after Whiting did.
No one was available with Oasis Petroleum to discuss the matter on Friday, as the company only works every other Friday. Neither emails nor phone calls to various Oasis Petroleum employees and the main desk were returned.
A former employee said the company laid off about half of its pressure pumping staff, and said the total layoff was around 80 people. Job Services North Dakota, meanwhile, confirmed that a notice was filed by Oasis as required by state laws. That notice estimated the layoff affected 40 employees in the Williston region.
Notices are required when companies with at least 100 employees in an office will be laying off either 33 percent of that workforce or at least 50 of those employees.
Oasis Petroleum’s latest earnings call on Aug. 7 did contain some clues as to what might have prompted the layoff, though it did not mention the layoff at all.
Among problems the company faced in the second quarter were unplanned delays in getting its Wild Basin gas processing plant in McKenzie County up and running.
The facility was down for about 20 days, company officials said, downtime that was attributed to normal efforts in the startup phase for a new facility. This downtime reduced quarterly production by an estimated 3,000 barrels of oil equivalent net per day in the second quarter, Oasis executives estimated.
Weather issues and North Dakota’s short construction season affected some other gas plant facilities more adversely, company officials also said.
“Getting that plant up online in time for December was a huge feat for the team,” an unidentified Oasis executive said on the call. “Now we are through it, and I think we are past it.”
The asset is what the company described as a “coveted” asset — whether it’s owned by Oasis, or a different entity, executives said.
There was a clear implication in discussion that followed that the facility could be for sale at the right price.
“More of our drilling activity will move out of Wild Basin, so that asset won’t be quite as strategic to us on a go-forward basis as it has been in the past,” said Tommy Nusz, Oasis Petroleum's director and chief executive officer.