N.D. oil production dips for first time in 19 months

A pair of pumpjacks is pictured Thursday near Williston, N.D. North Dakota produced 733,078 barrels of oil per day in November, a 2 percent decline since October, in part due to winter weather. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Winter weather contributed to a 2 percent decline in North Dakota’s oil production in November, the first drop in 19 months, the Department of Mineral Resources said Friday.

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Director Lynn Helms. “We had gotten very used to month-by-month increases in production almost regardless of what was happening out there.”

North Dakota produced 733,078 barrels of oil per day in November, according to preliminary figures from the department, a 2.2 percent drop from October’s daily production of 749,212 barrels.

Helms said officials expected another increase of 2 percent to 3 percent for November, but Nov. 10, 2012, was the snowiest day for Williams County since 1901.

The storm caused some operators to shut down operation for a few days and truck transportation of oil “slowed to a halt,” Helms said.

The last time North Dakota saw a month-to-month decline in oil production was in April 2011, also due to a snowstorm, said Alison Ritter, spokeswoman for the department.

The number of idle wells waiting for hydraulic fracturing crews at the end of November rose to 410, about a 20 percent increase over October.

“The fracking has really slowed down,” Helms said. “It certainly is a trend that concerns me.”

In addition to weather effects, operators were cutting costs in November and through the end of the year as rapidly escalating costs consumed annual budgets faster than companies anticipated, Helms said.

The number of drilling rigs operating on federal lands fell from four to zero in November, Helms said.

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