As the nation's oil industry struggles to deal with record low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, one of the top producers in the Bakken has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Whiting Petroleum Corporation, based in Denver, announced the move Wednesday.
President and CEO Bradley J. Holly says Whiting's board of directors concluded a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy provided the best path forward for the company.
Whiting is the first major U.S. shale producer to seek bankruptcy protection and restructuring, but many experts believe it could be a sign of things to come.
Montana Petroleum Association Executive Director Alan Olson said the current downturn in the industry has idled more than 1,000 oil wells across eastern Montana.
Olson said hundreds of wells in Musselshell, Toole, Glacier, and Rosebud counties have been "shut-in," meaning the pumps have been turned off.
"Small oil and gas producers all across Montana are shutting in their wells and laying off workers," said Olson. While he said he has not seen exact layoff numbers, he told MTN News that nationwide, experts believe the oil industry could lose as many as 200,000 jobs.
Olson noted that Whiting Petroleum has been involved in the Montana oil scene for more than 35 years, and the news is hard to stomach.
"Whiting was a good company, a good corporate member of the community," said Olson. "They will be missed."
According to oilprice.com, Whiting Petroleum plans to continue to operate without material disruption to vendors or employees. At this point, the company said it expects it will have enough liquidity to meet its financial obligations during the restructuring without resorting to additional financing.
As for the price of oil, Wednesday's WTI Crude price was trading just over $21 a barrel, an increase of more than 4 percent for the day.