WILLISTON, N.D. – North Dakota oil and gas production hit two milestones in August, exceeding daily production of 900,000 barrels of oil and 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas for the first time.
Oil production rose 4 percent in August to 911,242 barrels per day, according to preliminary figures released Tuesday by the Department of Mineral Resources.
“I think that tells us that late this year or very early next year we’ll see 1 million barrels a day,” Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said. “That will be a big item for North Dakota.”
Helms said he expects to see another significant production increase in September, but an unusually wet October brought a lot of work to a halt in the state’s busiest county, Helms said.
McKenzie County, which has about one-third of the state’s 183 drilling rigs, has had to close gravel roads to heavy trucks in recent days, which means rigs can’t move and trucks can’t haul water and sand needed for hydraulic fracturing.
Stark County also has asked for voluntary road closures to heavy trucks due to the wet weather.
Helms said the road closures will have a “lingering effect” on oil production because this time of year is prime time for earth-moving equipment to prepare well pads for the winter.
The percentage of natural gas flared in August dropped 1 percent to 29 percent. But the volume of gas flared increased from 9.3 billion cubic feet to 9.4 billion cubic feet during the month.
Helms said an industry task force meets for the third time this week to discuss solutions and policy changes that may be necessary to reduce the volume of natural gas being flared.
In August, 61 percent of North Dakota’s oil was transported by rail and the rest was transported by pipeline, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.
The percent of North Dakota Bakken crude transported by rail has been closer to 70 percent and was at 75 percent this past April.
Kringstad said changes in market prices this summer prompted more companies to move oil by pipeline. But the prices are shifting again and he anticipates more barrels to move back to rail.
Helms noted Tuesday that North Dakota produced 80,000 barrels of oil per day in 2003.
“It’s really amazing to think that in 10 years our production went up 11-fold,” Helms said.