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Oil company begins drilling in Williston, N.D., neighborhood

A drilling rig peers out over a residential neighborhood in Williston, N.D. The operating company, Statoil, is taking steps to minimize the impacts to residents. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications

WILLISTON, N.D. -- Residents of one of Williston's newest neighborhoods now have an up-close view of a drilling rig.

Statoil is drilling four wells in northwest Williston, adjacent to many new homes and a developing residential area.

For Fargo man Chuck Horejsi, who is renting a room in a house near the rig this summer, seeing the derrick from his bedroom window is unusual.

"Only in Williston," Horejsi said, laughing. "I can't believe they put an oil rig in the backyard."

Russ Rankin, Williston regional manager for Statoil, said the company has drilled near two other residential areas in Williston, but this site may be closer to more homes.

Initially, the company will drill the four wells in the neighborhood, and likely come back and drill three more wells later on, said Lance Langford, a Statoil vice president. It typically takes about a month to drill each well.

Statoil is taking several steps to minimize the impact on the neighborhood, including locating the access to the site away from homes and surrounding the area with a fence, Rankin said.

A system of pipelines for transporting crude oil, natural gas and water for hydraulic fracturing will eliminate thousands of trips by trucks to and from the site over the lifetime of the wells.

This week, crews planted 550 trees around the area. The company also added a sidewalk, seeded the boulevard with grass and plans to add other amenities, such as a park bench and a flag pole, Rankin said.

The site will have some flaring of natural gas, but Statoil will put up barriers or take other measures to minimize the light from flame, Rankin said.

Neighbors who attended a city meeting to discuss the drilling activity were most concerned about hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, Rankin said. While H2s shouldn't be an issue at that site, the company is going to monitor for the poisonous gas, he said.

Williston Mayor Ward Koeser said he hasn't heard any complaints about the location of the rig.

"I think it's been fairly well planned," Koeser said.

Horejsi, who hauls concrete for Strata Construction, said he hasn't heard any noise or noticed any additional traffic.

"It hasn't affected my life at all," Horejsi said.

Many people who live in the neighborhood work in the oil industry and are accustomed to drilling in city limits in other parts of the country.

"I think that we're just used to it," said resident Cindy Phillips, who is from Texas. "I haven't even noticed it."

Williston resident Milly Benth said she doesn't mind that a rig is now her neighbor.

"It's progress," said Benth, who has lived in her home for 45 years.

Benth said she was glad to see the trees being planted around the site.

"It will help cover it a little bit, I think," Benth said.