Oil industry shakes off April cold to set another record

An oil well pumps on a pad east of Williston, N.D., on Thursday, June 6, 2013, as a rig roughly a half-mile to its west drills a new well. Dustin Monke / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — North Dakota oil production rose 1.3 percent in April, hitting another all-time high despite record cold temperatures for the month and late winter storms that caused widespread road closures.

The state produced 793,249 barrels of crude per day, according to preliminary figures from the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources.

Director Lynn Helms said the unseasonable weather contributed to an increase in the number of oil wells waiting for hydraulic fracturing crews. An estimated 490 wells were awaiting fracking at the end of April.

“The drilling rigs are continuing to outpace the frac crews and the ability to get wells on production,” Helms said. “That’s because industry has just not been able to catch a break with regard to weather.”

North Dakota had a record 185 new wells connected to natural gas gathering lines in April, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

However, the percentage of natural gas flared remained at 29 percent.

That’s because additional compressor stations and pipeline expansions are needed to keep up with the amount of natural gas being produced, Helms said.

The wet spring weather and road restrictions that have continued late into the season have affected the number of drilling rigs in North Dakota, Helms said. The count was 184 on Friday and is expected to climb near 200 in July.

Helms said he also expects that frac crews will catch up on the backlog of wells during July and August.

“We expect a big surge in production coming up in the summer months,” Helms said.

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