Dunn County "man camp" operated by Civeo, itself laying off 45% of staff
North Dakota and Canada's Bakken region can be considered a true boomtown economy, and with booms there are often busts based on changing economic circumstances.
The precipitous fall in oil prices is likely to whipsaw the Bakken economy, as shale oil production costs anywhere from $55 to $85 per barrel, and at this moment, West Texas Intermediate oil is trading on NYMEX for $47.88 per barrel. However, this figure represents the value of West Texas oil, not Bakken oil, which must be transported much farther than West Texas oil. The added transportation costs range from $11 to $19 per barrel of oil, meaning that the value of Bakken oil is much lower than for WTI.
This morning, the price offered at the pipeline for Williston Basin Sweet oil was just $31.69 per barrel and the price offered for Williston Basin Sour (meaning high sulfur content) was $22.58 per barrel.
Drilling activity in North Dakota has already been declining, with the number of drilling rigs declining 23% so far since this oil boom’s peak. The reason this number has not declined more is because much of the oil being produced at the moment is "hedged" or pre-sold at yesterday's prices. If current prices stay the same or decline more, the real bust might not occur for a few more months. That will be when layoffs accelerate and the man camps, motels and RV parks start experiencing significant vacancies.
The effect on real estate will be significant, and I have personally witnessed a similar collapse while working as an appraiser in Houston, Texas, from 1984 to 1987, when I lost my job in the Texas real estate collapse after oil prices fell to $9 per barrel.
Most affected will be the value of land previously considered to have development potential. There has been a proliferation of Bakken-area land parcels being advertised as ideal for business park, RV park or hotel development, at prices up to $200,000 per acre. Most of these are still raw, undeveloped land, and their highest and best use just may be a return to farming or ranching. It may be common to see commercial land values falling by more than 90% as highest and best use changes from commercial to agricultural.
RV parks will also be in jeopardy, as they typically house temporary oil workers who may be first to go as layoffs continue. Other “man camps” are already in trouble. Man camp operator Civeo, featured in the above photo, has announced layoffs for 45% of its total worldwide staff and saw its stock price plunge 50% yesterday. Its stock price is now $3.11 per share, an 89% decrease in the last year.
The lodging industry will also be severely impacted, as many hotel rooms were built to accommodate the boom in temporary workers, and there will be a consequent oversupply of rooms.
PS: Bakken update, January 14, 2015
The number of active drilling wells in North Dakota has fallen to 158 as of today, over 26% below the peak of the Bakken oil boom. The offering price for Williston Basin Sweet is $29.44 per barrel and $20.33 for Williston Basin Sour, representing further declines of 7% and 10% respectively in the last week.
PPS: Bakken update, March 5, 2015
The number of active drilling wells in North Dakota has fallen to 113 as of today, 47% below the peak of the Bakken oil boom. The offering price for Williston Basin Sweet at the Plains pipeline has risen to $35.19 per barrel for Williston Basin Sweet and $26.08 for Williston Basin Sour.
What this means is that Bakken oil producers are receiving 20 to 28% more for their oil in the last 2 months, as North Dakota drilling activity has dropped by 30% in the same time period and inventories shrink.
The consequences for the real estate sector will be negative. Since the peak of Bakken drilling activity in mid-2012, the number of active drilling rigs has declined from 215 to 113, a drop of 47.5%. Considering that each drilling rig employs 100 to 125 workers, this represents job losses of about 10,000 to 12,000 workers, workers who were living in motels and RV parks, and some who might have been renting apartments or even searching for a home to buy. Despite the improvement in the price willing to be paid for Bakken oil, these benefits will go to the oil producers and not the real estate market.
PPS: Bakken update, March 16, 2015
The number of active drilling wells in North Dakota has fallen to 111 as of today, 48% below the peak of the Bakken oil boom. The offering price for Williston Basin Sweet at the Plains pipeline has plummeted to $28.44 per barrel for Williston Basin Sweet and $19.33 for Williston Basin Sour.
The most active driller in Bakken is Whiting Petroleum (WLL). It put itself up for sale last week and the stock popped up to $40 per share after reporting interested buyers, at which time I sold this stock short. With current assets and a book value of property, plant and equipment (probably above market value) adding up to $13 billion, and liabilities of $8.3 billion, current market capitalization of $6.4 billion as of this moment seems at least 50% too high.
Related story: http://on.wsj.com/1BNWrPY
PPS: Bakken update, March 27, 2015
The number of active drilling wells in North Dakota has fallen to 97 as of today, 55% below the peak of the Bakken oil boom. The offering price for Williston Basin Sweet at the Plains pipeline has increased to $32.44 per barrel for Williston Basin Sweet and $23.33 for Williston Basin Sour.
The most active driller in Bakken is Whiting Petroleum (WLL). I sold this stock short 2 weeks ago at $40 per share and it closed today at $30.50 per share, for a personal gain of 23.75% in 2 weeks.
PPS: Bakken update, July 15, 2015
The number of active drilling wells in North Dakota has fallen to 73 as of today, 66% below the peak of the Bakken oil boom. The Plains All American Pipeline is no longer publishing offering prices for Bakken crude, but oil prices in general are higher compared to March, and the offering price for Nebraska Intermediate, closest in proximity to Bakken, is $39.50 per barrel today. This is better news for oil companies, but bad news for Bakken-area real estate, as a two-thirds reduction in drilling rigs means that some oil workers might be moving out of state. The effect on employment could be muted, though, because up until this year, many workers were working double shifts so that they could earn six-figure incomes. Still, this hinders their ability to pay the inflated rents of yesterday.