Innovation. Dedication. Leadership. They were words heard over and over again during the Williston Basin API’s annual Petroleum Awards Banquet as the community gathered with industry to salute the achievements of 2021.

But first, Williston Economic Development Director Shawn Wenko, standing in for Mayor Howard Klug, talked about all the investments the oil and gas industry has made in Williston and the surrounding region — and is continuing to make with the recent announcement of a gas-to-liquids plant in Trenton as well as the rise of a beyond-visual-line-of-sight system for drones.

Northwestern North Dakota is the first location chosen for expanding the BVLOS network in the state, in large part because of all the economic development opportunity that exists because of the presence of the oil and gas industry in this region.

“So again, it goes back to the oil and gas industry,” Wenko said. “It’s the No. 1 industry. You guys are very important to us. We appreciate what you do, and let’s celebrate excellence and success tonight.”

The night was also a bittersweet moment for API President Ken Callahan who is retiring this year after 10 years of service as the President of the Williston Chapter, during which time the chapter celebrated giving more than a million dollars to community causes.

Callahan said the board has created a succession plan, and Jared Iverson will be taking over as president, while Callahan will remain on the board in a mentorship role. Meanwhile, other members of the board have each volunteered to take over one or another project that the group does, to keep everything rolling from chili cook-off to golf tournament and more.

“Besides all the time he’s given to the Williston API, he’s made a big impact on the community, volunteering and leading many different organizations,” Iverson said. “I don’t know where he finds the energy.”

The awards ceremony itself included recognition for best innovation, the most community engagement, and group and invidious achievement, and was followed by a rousing pep talk for the industry by Liberty CEO Chris Wright, who talked about how oil and gas is saving lives around the globe, and why it will have to be part of the world’s energy mix for decades to come, in spite of climate change.

Lifetime Achievements

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to someone who has made significant contributions to oil and gas in North Dakota. The individual must have at least 25 years in the industry, with am majority of that time in the Williston Basin. The individual must have also contributed to the oil and gas industry in a significant, game-changing way.

The award this year went to none other than North Dakota Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms.

Helms could not be at the banquet Friday night, so his award was presented in person ahead of the event, and a video shared of the presentation.

“I have to say that you are absolutely the consummate professional,” Kathy Neset, a previous Lifetime Achievement Award Winner told Helms. “You raise this industry much more than anyone else has ever done.”

Helms started his career in the oil industry as a roughneck working holidays and summers while earning his degree in engineering from /South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and a masters of Petroleum Engineering from the University of North Dakota.

Prior to becoming director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in 1998, Helms worked for Texaco in Montana and then Amerada Hess in Williston. He was a production engineer, reservoir engineer and asset team leader for projects in the Bakken and around the world, from Abu Dhabi, Alaska and Arkansas to Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas.

He is an active member of Dacotah Mandan Lions, Dakota Christian Camp,a nd Bismarck church of Christ, where he is active in service projects and teaching classes for preschoolers through adults. He enjoys spending time with his wife, adult children, grand-children, hunting, and riding horses.

Other industry awards

The Industry Innovation award, meanwhile, went to Creedence Energy Services for its work developing an acid circulation pump truck with a closed-loop manifold system that is the first of its kind in the Williston Basin. The portable unit safe circulates an acid blend to prevent flow line restriction and blockages due to scale at the wellhead. The approach reduces down-time and maintenance costs while also improving safety.

Creedence has more recently been working on a new biological surfactant to enhance oil and gas recovery, which is also earning it recognition across the oil and gas industry.

The other finalists for industry innovation were Crusoe Energy, which has patented a Digital Flare Mitigation system and NewKota for its Gorilla Jack, a hydraulic jack system that handles polish and sucker rods during service operations.

The Community Service Award, meanwhile, went to Industry Equipment Sales and Service.

IESS owner Stewart Vachal has been adamant about giving back to the community that has helped his company not just survive but thrive. Vachal takes that to another level by not just contributing but donating his time as well to help community organizations reach their goals. Among his many charitable efforts have been the Feed My Starving Children program. To assist with that, Vachal held employee contests to see who could raise the most money, then matched their donations. The program ultimately helped raise the money to feed 250,000 meals to children.

The other two finalists for the award were Busy Bees for their investments into the community and future generations, and Whiting petroleum, for funding organizations that help provide affordable health care, food, and housing.

Winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award — Individual was Jeff Holte, who has 40-plus years in the oil and gas industry.

He started out on drilling rigs and rose to become the successful owner of an oilfield consulting business. His professionalism and respect for colleagues and employees have always stood out no matter what role he was playing in the industry. He has been employed by Kenting Drilling Nabors Drilling, and finally Petroleum Experience, which he ultimately purchased.

Other finalists for this award were Brock Clingman, a production consultant who has also served the public as a deputy sheriff and as a longtime Williston rural firefighter volunteer, and Jason Baker, CEO Of Baker Consulting, one of the most recognizable and respectable oilfield service companies in the Bakken.

The Outstanding Achievement Award — Group was awarded to UND’s Petroleum Engineering, which is constantly striving to provide a state-of-the-art experience for its students. The university recently held a groundbreaking for one of the world’s largest oil drilling simulators, and that’s just the latest example of the kind of quality this program brings to the state of North Dakota. The program began in 2010 to help fill the need for engineers int he Bakken. More than 180 graduates of the program are out leading organizations in the state that support the industry in various roles.

The other finalists for the award were Enerplus, which has ramped up its efforts to reduce their freshwater needs in their operation by increasing their water recycling, and Red Trail Energy, which was the first to obtain an underground permit for storing carbon dioxide under the state’s Class VI authority.

Volunteer awards

Volunteer of the year was given to Chrysie Hendershott, for tireless and selfless dedication as an API volunteer. Hendershott is rarely absent from API meetings and events, and she has been an active and prominent participant in API fundraisers like the Chili Cook-off, where her games are usually the most popular and the ones with the longest lines of people waiting to try them. She has also recently helped organize historic documents for the API, including correspondence, newspaper articles, and more, and she was a key volunteer in readying the banquet Friday night.

MVP, meanwhile, was awarded to Kerri Espeland for challenging and motivating everyone around her to set high fundraising and community engagement goals. Espeland has been a force behind important changes to the organization and her input has played a key role in helping the organization achieve its goals.

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