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Amy Dalrymple, Published September 08 2013

Geologist educates laymen on Oil Patch

TIOGA, N.D. – Kathy Neset may be the only oilfield geologist who uses a bendable drinking straw as a key tool for her job.

The Tioga woman uses the straw to educate people about horizontal drilling, one of the technologies that’s unlocked the Bakken and made North Dakota the second-highest oil-producing state.

With the whole world interested in knowing more about what’s happening in North Dakota, Neset is in high demand to inform visiting federal officials and local residents about the state’s geology and the technology making the boom possible.

“I love sharing the story of this Bakken and then letting people make up their minds as to whether they think this is a good thing for North Dakota and for America,” said Neset, president of Neset Consulting Service.

Neset, a New Jersey native and Brown University graduate, moved to North Dakota in 1979 to work as a well site geologist.

When Neset educates people about hydraulic fracturing, she speaks not only as a member of the oil industry but also as a farmer. Neset has oil wells and a disposal well as close as 200 yards from her water well.

Neset and her late husband, Roy, a Tioga native and well site supervisor she met in the oilfield, formed the consulting service in 1980, right before North Dakota’s bust years. They farmed through the slow years to get by, but at times the couple talked about leaving the state.

“When I came here, I fell in love. I fell love with Roy and I fell in love with the state, and I was the one who fought to stay here,” Neset said.

As oil activity picked up again with the Bakken boom, Neset’s business has not only survived, it’s thriving.

Neset Consulting Service, which has geologists and mudloggers working on about 60 drilling rigs, now employs more than 150 people. The business recently moved to a new 28,000-square-foot facility, a huge step up from the doublewide trailer and garage the business occupied in Tioga.

Neset, who also serves as a member of the State Board of Higher Education, is excited about the opportunities for young people in North Dakota. Her sons, RC and Randy, who grew up on rig sites, are also involved with the business, with RC expanding the gas analysis division and Randy building the engineering side.

Although Neset hasn’t worked full time on a rig since 2006, she still gets out in the field as often as she can.

“I still go out to the rigs, and that’s where I love to be,” Neset said. “That’s where it’s happening; that’s where the excitement is.”