Saturday, 29 January 2011

North Dakota Residents Strike Oil in Their Back Yards

The large number of profitable oil wells is making many North Dakota residents rich. Still, Jed Clampett has nothing on Oscar and Lorene Stohler. The Stohlers struck oil last year on the family ranch, directly beneath a cow pasture. Oscar Stohler, 83, has spent his entire life in Beulah, ND, as a child living in a sod house to nearly seventy years of farming the land. When Stohler was approached last year by oilmen who wanted to drill on his property, he had some doubts. In fact, the man even joked about it.

"I told them if they hit oil, I was going to buy a Cadillac convertible and put those big horns on the front and wear a 10-gallon hat," Stohler recalled.

Much to the Stohlers’ surprise, the oilmen did strike oil. Oscar still drives his old pickup and wears a farm cap, although he can afford just about anything he wants.

In just under a year, Stohler and his wife, Lorene, 82, have become oil millionaires from one well that sits on their land near Dunn Center. A second well has begun producing and a third is in the process of being drilled. All wells in the area are aimed at the Bakken shale formation, a rich deposit that the U.S. Geological Survey calls "the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed."

The Stohlers believe that property owners in western North Dakota are better off giving up on the lottery and focusing on oil because the chances of striking it rich from oil are higher.

"It's the easiest money we've ever made," said Lorene Stohler, who worked for decades as a department store sales clerk.

The Stohlers aren’t the only ones among the town’s 120 person population. More than a few of their neighbors have traded in jobs as bar tenders and Tupperware salespeople to become "overnight millionaires" from oil royalty payments.

While many people in the region can afford to do as they please, there have been no reports of an influx of luxury cars such as the Ferrari and Rolls Royce.

As for the Stohlers, Oscar and Lorene say their riches haven't changed them.

"We still know what tough times are," Oscar said. "We grew up in the Dirty '30s."

"We put our kids through college without that oil money," Lorene said.

The couple moved a few miles east into Beulah proper where they paid cash for a house, the first they’ve ever owned. The Stohlers have also set up trust funds for their four children.

According to Lorene