WBI Energy celebrates 30 years of operation

2015 marks significant anniversary

Natural gas volumes delivered through the company’s 3,800-mile pipeline system have increased nearly eightfold since the company was launched in 1985.  Now, in 2015, WBI Energy is celebrating 30 years of operation as a business unit of MDU Resources Group.
Natural gas volumes delivered through the company’s 3,800-mile pipeline system have increased nearly eightfold since the company was launched in 1985. Now, in 2015, WBI Energy is celebrating 30 years of operation as a business unit of MDU Resources Group.

It was 1985. Ronald Reagan was president and George H.W. Bush was vice president. A movie called Back to the Future broke box office records and the San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XIX.

Meanwhile, in North Dakota, a new company within a corporation called MDU Resources Group was born and begun operations. Its name? Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Company.

But, the funny thing was … it really wasn’t a “new” company. What Williston Basin was doing in natural gas pipeline operations, they had been doing since the early 1930s. What was new is that they broke out as a separate company.

Prior to becoming Williston Basin, the corporation’s interstate natural gas pipeline operation was part of Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. More specifically, they were a department of the utility operations known as the P & T Department, short for production and transmission.

The designation of the company’s pipeline operations as a separate entity within the larger corporation would officially occur with a regulatory order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, issued on February 13, 1985. The order authorized Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Company to acquire the interstate pipeline assets of Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. retroactive to January 1, 1985. Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Company would be a subsidiary of MDU Resources Group and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. would be a division of the same corporation.

“We were operating an interstate pipeline system that required federal regulatory oversight,” said Steven L. Bietz, president and CEO of WBI Energy. “At the time, however, our regulations came from four separate state commissions, plus the federal agency. Creating a separate company meant that regulation would be accomplished by the federal agency alone. From an operational efficiency perspective, this made a lot of sense.”

Fast-forward 30 years and the employees of the company find themselves celebrating three decades of operations as a separate business unit of MDU Resources Group, Inc. Through its long history, Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Co. has grown into a premier pipeline and energy services company, with over 3,800 miles of regulated pipeline spanning large sections of four states. It also added various non-regulated businesses, and in 2012 changed its name to WBI Energy to better align with its diversifying operations. The regulated pipeline business was renamed WBI Energy Transmission, Inc.

Natural gas volumes delivered through the company’s pipeline system have increased nearly eight times since the company was launched in 1985. Much of this growth is attributable to the surge in activity in western North Dakota’s Bakken shale play, where the company’s legacy pipeline has been operating for more than half of a century.

“Organic growth and growth through acquisition fueled our strategy through the 1990s,” Bietz said. “When the Bakken oil play was expanding in the mid-2000s, and with our legacy operations in the heart of western North Dakota, we were well-positioned for more growth and expansion.”

With the company’s pipeline and energy services weaving through the heart of the Bakken, other opportunities became available from the increasing volumes of natural gas being produced in the region.

“Our activity to connect natural gas processing plants to Northern Border Pipeline, along with increasing demand for natural gas in the region, has driven total system capacity growth,” Bietz said. “The effect of these annual additions to capacity through new pipeline construction and additional compression was steady.” Bietz noted that in 2012 a significant benchmark was reached when total system capacity on the pipeline exceeded one billion cubic feet of gas per day.

“We are celebrating our 30th anniversary, and while it’s great to look back on what we’ve done, we also want to look ahead,” Bietz said. “We continue to pursue growth with plans to invest $1.1 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years. Investments will be focused not only on expanding our existing operations, but in areas aligned to our core expertise. There is no greater example of this than our ownership and operation of the first greenfield diesel refinery to be built in the nation since the late 1970s.”

WBI Energy, along with Calumet Specialty Products Partners, is building Dakota Prairie Refining near Dickinson, North Dakota. Construction on the facility began in March 2013 and is expected to be in commercial production in the second quarter of 2015.


Here’s an amazing statistic. Eleven percent of WBI Energy’s workforce has worked for the company for 30 years or more. That’s 41 people! According January 2014 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.6 years. WBI Energy’s median years of service is nine years – nearly double the national rate.

About WBI Energy 

5-2WBI Energy, Inc. provides natural gas transportation, underground storage, processing and gathering services, as well as oil gathering and other energy-related services, through regulated and non-regulated pipeline systems primarily in the Rocky Mountain and Northern Great Plains regions of the United States. It is constructing the Dakota Prairie Refinery to refine Bakken crude oil to produce diesel fuel in Western North Dakota. WBI Energy is an indirect subsidiary of MDU Resources Group, Inc., a multidimensional natural resource enterprise traded on the New York Stock Exchange as “MDU”. For more information about WBI Energy, visit the company’s website at www.wbienergy.com.

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