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By Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Jim Arthaud doesn’t look like a man at the helm of a multimillion-dollar oilfield services company.
Wearing a polo shirt and baseball cap with blue jeans, he sits in the office of his senior vice president and watches The Weather Channel while discussing the price of oil.
“Oil’s up today,” he says with a smile. “It’s about at $50. It’s only got $50 to go.”
The 60-year-old CEO and founder of MBI Energy Services follows that statement with a smile and laughter, knowing all too well the price for a barrel of crude oil isn’t doubling anytime soon.
That Arthaud can joke about the price of oil is a telling sign that not all is doom and gloom in the western North Dakota oilfields—at least not yet. Still, following eight years of substantial growth tied directly to the Bakken oil boom, Arthaud looks back on the past 10 months—a unique type of oil bust, as he puts it—and knows he should have seen these days coming.
“I’d say it surprised a lot of people and it surprised me,” he said. “It was definitely a dramatic downturn that a lot of people didn’t see. Obviously, the writing was on the wall. We all should have seen it.”
Despite being 30 years younger than Arthaud, Seth Murphy is cut from the same cloth. They’re both the type of men who’d rather be working in the field than stuck in an office, and each has an unsuspecting way about him.
While Arthaud has surrounded himself with a management team he believes is second to none in the North Dakota oil industry, Murphy is a 30-year-old entrepreneur and former rodeo cowboy who’s constantly on the move as he continues to build SM Fencing and Energy Services, a service company he started in 2006 with just one employee.
His iPhone constantly buzzes with calls and messages—questions from employees or clients, which he’s more than content to answer himself.
Even with no end to the North Dakota oil slowdown in sight, Murphy keeps very busy.