You've Never Seen Anything Like This North Dakota Oil Boomtown

Williston Oil Worker

Photo: Robert Johnson — Business Insider

10 years ago Williston, North Dakota was a quiet agricultural town with a population around 12,000.Today, because of oil prices and drilling advancements, Williston is home to America’s biggest oil boom and its residents number over 30,000.

Home prices are soaring, unemployment is close to zero and people from around the country are flocking here for jobs where the starting pay can easily exceed $100,000.

Williston has already received lots of media attention, but what I saw when visiting last week was stranger than I could have imagined.

Williston, North Dakota is in the Northwestern portion of the state, not far from Montana and Canada

The town happens to sit in the centre of the large Bakken oil formation — 640 square miles of oil, holding up to 34 billion barrels

Recent advancements in fracking allow operators to go deeper, more precisely than ever before

Despite seeing a boom in the 1950s and a second one in the late '70s, Williston hasn't changed much over the years

But with this third boom, the town is filled with all facets of the oil industry. This truck is filled with potassium carbonate for fracking.

Some of the nicer camps have recreation rooms like this, and laundry facilities

There is some new housing finally going up. This model home is went on the market for more than originally thought as prices from labour to materials are skyrocketing.

These homes are all owned by Halliburton

Land like this went for $500 an acre not long ago. The people who own this 153 acres recently turned down $200K an acre.

These apartments are almost completely leased before they're complete. If you can manage to get one, expect to pay $2,000 a month for a small one bedroom and $3,400 for a three bedroom.

For a while, Wal-Mart was allowing campers to park in its lot and workers to sleep there, but the superstore asked everyone to move last month

The trailers had numbered signs like this in the window, forming their own numbered neighbourhood. This trailer is now wedged across the street behind some stores.

Despite a warm winter, it's cold here, and most people have some sort of heater in their car. They all know it's dangerous, and that one wrong move can turn your car into a blazing inferno.

Across 640 square miles of oil, experts estimate four drills will be placed every square mile

Some men try and bring their families, but it can be tough. Schools are crowded and conditions are harsh.

There is also a shortage of workers. This restaurant closed down last year when it failed to find sufficient staff. It converted to a buffet.

The wages are good. With no experience it is common for workers to start at over $100,000. The hours are long and the work can be rough, but many come here from across the US to save their homes.

The hours are so long, that men sleep, and they work. Spouses look for ways to make money by providing the most basic of services to the overworked crews. Like cooking.

And doing their very dirty laundry

The work can also be dangerous. Gases like hydrogen sulfide can be found along with the oil. This yellow flag at the drill site announces that poisonous gas may be present.

Once the derrick is removed and the well drilled, the site will look like this. Even after all the wells are drilled they will need to be maintained and updated.

Wells are going down so fast there is little security, and the oil is coming up faster than it can be delivered. Oil groups are limited to two pipelines, and the oil is backing up so fast, drilling has slowed.

Here is a load of proppant from China, used to frac a well, sitting at the rail-head

Fracking pipe is brought in largely by rail and the railroad is also adding jobs

All of this is going on amid some pretty stunning scenery

And an abundance of wildlife

This waitress at a local truck stop said it's not uncommon, for some, to make $750 a day waiting tables

Everywhere you look there are campers filled with job seekers

For some, the oil field is a chance to forge a future

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