The Roundup -

Leadership Class Offers REAL Industry Education


The REAL Montana Program made a visit to area oil locates on Friday. (Submitted by Jessica Sena)

Through a public-private partnership, the Resource Education and Agriculture Leadership (REAL) Montana program has been providing leaders from around the Treasure State with an in-depth look at natural resource development industries.

This year, the second class of participants makes its way through a two year course, wherein seminars are scheduled throughout the state as well as in Washington D.C. At the end of the course, participants also take an international trip. The inaugural class traveled to China, and the current class will visit Columbia next spring.

Each seminar provides an education in everything from media training, to professional networking, persuasive speaking, and the campaign process for elected office. To date, the class has held seminars focused on Ethical Leadership and Teambuilding, Working with the Media, Crop Production & Economy, and Federal Government: Policy on a National Scale. Organized through the MSU Extension Office, and supported by the generous donations of private sponsors, REAL Montana focuses on training current leaders, as well as future elected officials and opinion makers about industries such as mining, oil and gas, agriculture and logging.

The current class is comprised of business owners, ranchers, representatives of the coal mining, logging, and energy development industries, with many holding leadership positions in professional organizations, advocacy groups, and trade associations.

Last week, the REAL Montana class attended an oil and gas seminar in Sidney.Richland County remains the state's top oil producing county, in spite of the downturn in activity. With the help of the Montana Petroleum Association (MPA), the entire class was given an informative tour of a drilling rig and a frac site, along with a natural gas processing plant and rail terminal by MPA members Oasis Petroleum and Oneok Rockies Midstream.

Tour hosts provided an education in the many high tech changes that have taken place in the oil and gas industry, both through regulation and innovation, in hopes of providing an accurate portrayal of an industry often misrepresented by the media and anti-oil groups. The REAL Montana class visited with Oasis drilling and frac directors while they were "fracking". Both a chemist and a petroleum engineer with the company explained the constituents in frac fluid, and purpose of the controversial well completion process, following a tour through an active drilling rig.

At Oneok's newest gas processing facility, Lonesome Creek (outside of Watford City), company representatives explained how increased regulation on flaring has created opportunities for midstream companies like Oneok to build new, revenue generating infrastructure to capture and utilize otherwise flared gas at the wellhead. Today, Oneok is the largest independent operator of natural gas gathering and processing facilities in the Williston Basin. Between 2006 and 2014, Oneok Partners completed $8 billion of capital-growth projects and acquisitions companywide, and has investments of approximately $3 billion in additional projects at varying stages of production across the Williston Basin area.

The class finished the tour at the Riverview Rail Terminal in Sidney, also owned by Oneok.

Prior to the day-long oilfield tour, the class had the opportunity to hear from speakers about the current regulatory environment, the city and county planning process, and how oil and gas extraction and processing works.

Representatives from Oasis Petroleum provided an "Oilfield 101" presentation ahead of the tour day, and Bret Gallo, project engineer for Bison Engineering discussed the state of flaring and air quality regulations. Other speakers included Leslie Messer with the Richland County Economic Development Office; Pete Hanebutt of the North Dakota Farm Bureau; and Jim Talbert, McKenzie County planning director; and Danette Welsh, government affairs manager for Oneok Partners.

Along with exercising leadership skills by taking turns as seminar coordinators and session managers, each of the participating members of the class presents a persuasive speech of their own during one of the 10 seminars, on something they are passionate about.

Paul Babb, community relations manager with NorthWestern Energy, appropriately gave his speech at the oil and gas seminar. His speech focused on the importance of attitude to individual and corporate success; giving back and telling the personal story of each company (industry).Babb used many philanthropic stories of work that NorthWestern employees have done in their communities to point to the positive impact the company is making beyond its day-to-day operations. "

Future classes are open to the public, and companies are encouraged to refer and/or sponsor their employees to participate. To learn more about the class, visit


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