N.D. oil production up 1 percent in October

WILLISTON, N.D. – North Dakota saw a “lackluster” increase in oil production in October but still hit another record as the state approaches a 1 million barrel per day milestone, the state’s top regulator said Friday.

The state produced 941,637 barrels per day in October, preliminary figures show, a 1 percent increase over the previous month.

Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said that percent increase would have been at least double if heavy rains hadn’t prompted McKenzie County to shut down gravel roads to heavy trucks for three or four days.

McKenzie County has about one third of the state’s 189 drilling rigs and accounts for 29 percent of state production.

“When an event like that happens countywide in a place like McKenzie County it’s very significant,” Helms said.

November’s oil production figures will likely reflect a larger increase, but snow and arctic temperatures this month are slowing oil development, Helms said. Cold weather is especially difficult for hydraulic fracturing operations, which require water to be heated to 100 to 150 degrees, Helms said.

Even with the weather causing ups and downs, Helms projects the state will produce 1 million barrels per day in early 2014.

North Dakota produced 1.07 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in October, according to the preliminary figures.

The percentage of natural gas flared decreased 1 percent to 28 percent. The volume flared for the month was just under 9.7 billion cubic feet, Helms said.

North Dakota may see as much as a 5 percent reduction in the amount flared after the new Hess Corp. Tioga Gas Plant comes online, Helms said. A Divide County gathering system also expected to come online soon should provide another significant drop in flaring, he said.

A record 700,000 barrels of oil per day moved by rail in October, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. That means about 10 100-car trains leave loaded with Bakken crude every day, and 10 unloaded trains arrive in the state, Kringstad said.

Helms projects that as much as 90 percent of North Dakota’s production will be transported by rail in 2014 as producers seek the most competitive oil price.

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