In the Heart of the Oil Patch

Watford City, North Dakota is a great little place. It’s been my good fortune to travel there many times over the last 30 years to visit family. Unlike most small places, Watford City has often been featured in the national news in recent years during the last oil boom when its population of 1,500 exploded to 7,000 (or more). In the county seat of McKenzie County, Watford Citians found their way of life thrust into the hurricane that was the “Bakken Oil Play”‒ Watford City is in the heart of the western North Dakota oil patch.

For years I've been stopping by the local Kum & Go station, located at Main Street and the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway. Their coffee has saved me many times while I’ve stayed with non-coffee-drinking relatives. But mostly I stop there because Kum & Go sells E85 fuel for flex fuel vehicles (FFVs).

When the company remodeled the station in the midst of all the craziness that is an oil boom town, I figured E85 would get lost in the hubbub and dropped from the company's plans. But when that shiny new convenience store and its big new dispenser islands re-opened, there was E85 under the canopy!
What’s even better, they added it to the marquee price sign (pictured right).

Like other places, there are plenty of E85-capable FFVs in McKenzie County. During my early morning forays to Kum & Go for coffee, I've witnessed rows of oilfield services pickups idling in the parking lot, dozens of those marked with FFV badges.

Understandably, Kum & Go is a bit shy about sharing sales data or whether it's individuals or vehicle fleets buying their E85. However, the company has now added the renewable-based fuel to their outlets in Tioga and Williston. And their pricing relative to gasoline has been competitive.

My takeaway is that ethanol-blended fuels are doing well in the heart of the oil patch.

Western North Dakota has weathered at least three “boom & bust” cycles since oil was discovered there in the 1950s. I suspect more than a few locals appreciate the long-term and stable economic development benefits that renewables can provide and understand the importance of diversifying our transportation fuels.

North Dakota is home to nearly fifty E85 stations including twenty that offer mid-level blends. For a full listing of the North Dakota sites, visit or to find stations along your travel route in North Dakota, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuel Data Center and use the Station Locator and Map a Route tool.

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